Me in the Media: Outrage and the Bakken

It’s been a hectic week here in North Dakotaland. So hectic, in fact, that I don’t have time to write about myself. The self-promotion machine has run up against the oppressive reality of … life and books and outrage!

Fortunately, when I’m too busy to promote myself, other people do pick up the slack.

I was really excited to see this article by Megan Gannon in the MIT-based UnDark Magazine. She discusses the North Dakota Man Camp Project in the context of other – frankly more established and well-known – archaeological projects that focused on the contemporary world. It’s a real honor to be discussed next to the seminal work of Bill Rathje, Larry Zimmerman, and Jason DeLeón. 

The Grand Forks Herald has a short piece on the NDUS Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit that begins tomorrow. Check it out here.

Finally, on Tuesday, North Dakota Quarterly re-published my little article on the historical context for Elwyn Robinson’s History of North Dakota. It’s a nice little piece that ties together Robinson’s career as a teacher and a leader in the Department of History with his crowning achievement. 

Lots going on this week!

In Defense of Housing

Peter Marcuse’s and David J. Madden’s In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis (Verso 2016) is a elegant survey of issues facing housing on a global scale. For the authors, the contemporary housing crisis exists in the tension between housing as home and housing as a commodity. Marcuse and Madden juxtapose the multimillion dollar luxury condominiums in New York and London with the need for basic, affordable housing in the same cities. The multimillion dollar apartments, however, were rarely occupied whereas the basic and affordable housing are a key factor in social cohesion, personal dignity, and the health of individuals and communities. The problem is that both affordable housing and luxury condominiums represent commodities, investments, and figments of complex, global financial arrangements that belie their material presence and the central role that basic housing plays in the lives of billions of people. This book argues that for our society to restore a human character to housing and to protect it as a basic right for all people, the state (on a global scale!) must transform and undermine the system of commodifying and financializing housing. The push might come from tenant and housing activists, but the change must come from the top. 

My interest in housing emerged over the last five years of working on the archaeology of workforce housing in the Bakken oil patch in western North Dakota. Among better known issues that emerged during the Bakken Oil Boom was a housing crisis that was mitigated in part by a range of temporary workforce housing sites collectively called “man camps.” In keeping with Madden and Marcuse, these housing sites followed the flow of global capital into the region and distant landlords and eventually developers seeded the landscape with a range of housing options from tidy, new subdivisions to informal settlements filled with RVs and dusty roads. During the boom, the primary concern was housing the influx of workers, but as the boom has turned to bust, housing has become a financial concern for communities who have massive inventories of newly built apartments and homes and abandoned workforce housing sites whose investors have pulled their capital for greener pastures or been left with properties that will not generate income or appreciate.

While the Bakken boom and bust has made obvious the financial systems that fuel both extractive industries and the global housing market, it has also made visible the complex attitudes of individuals involved in most ephemeral aspects of the global housing market. The temporary workforce that supported the oil industry in the Bakken had distinct attitudes toward “home” that ranged from an affection for mobile RV to a nostalgia for distant (and often past) stability of farms, suburban neighborhoods, or rural communities. These individuals constantly made financial calculations that allowed them to negotiate the tension between home and the placelessness of the global market. The maintenance of a garden at an RV made a temporary vehicle into a home. Practices like “hot sheeting,” squatting, and corporate housing by global logistics companies allowed workers to separate where they lived from a sentimental concept of home. These strategies subverted and renegotiated the ways in which the fiscal realities of a commodified housing market on the ground and offered examples of resistance more subtle (and perhaps less idealistic) than the kind of tenant activism celebrated in Marcuse’s and Madden’s work.

NDUS Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit

We have the final program ready for the NDUS Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit. It includes a sweet cover designed by Donovan Witmer. Here’s a draft of my very brief opening remarks

The hashtag is #NDUSOutrage (which oddly enough hasn’t been used lately)!

Outrage Program Cover

Here’s the program. 

8:00 – 8:30
Welcome
Lecture Bowl

Bill Caraher
Associate Professor, Department of History, UND

Mark Kennedy
President, UND 

9:00-10:00 AM          
Panel
The Art of Outrage
Badlands Room 

Light and Darkness: Tragedy and the Use of Light in Public Art
Patrick Luber, UND

Quick Response to Outrage
Jenni Lou Russi, VCSU           

8:30-10:00 AM          
Panel
Historical Outrage
Lecture Bowl 

Public Outrage (Re)shaping Settler Commemoration
Cynthia C. Prescott, UND

From Outrage to Change: A Historical Overview of the Black Campus Movement: 1960-1980
Daniel Cooley, UND

Outrage in Historical Perpsective
Eric Burin, UND           

8:30-10:00 AM
Panel
Music Therapy Suspension: Shock, Denial, Outrage, Bargaining, Depression, but not Acceptance
River Valley Room           

Music Therapy: An essential allied health profession
Anita Gadberry, UND

Music Therapy in the Evolution of the UND Music Department
Gary Towne, UND

The Impact of the Suspension of Music Therapy on UND
James Popejoy, UND

The Suspension of the UND Music Therapy Program: A Case Study of Flawed Process
Katherine Norman Dearden           

10:15-11:30     
Musical Performance
Ball Room

Fiery Red
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)

Luminus
Piano Trio (MSU)

Jon Rumney, violin, MSU
Erik Anderson, cello, MSU
Dianna Anderson, piano, MSU 

String Quartet No. 8
II. Allegro molto
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) 

MSU String Quartet
Jon Rumney, violin (filling in for Will Schilling)
Nikisa Gentry, violin
Nina Coster, viola
Rebecca Randash, cello 

10:15-11:45     
Panel
Literary Outrage
River Valley Room 

The Monkey Smokes a Cigarette, or, Yelling at Your Television
Brian Schill UND

Medieval Zorn, Modern Outrage: The Narrative Aspects of Discontent.
Shawn R. Boyd, UND

Dog-Woman on a Slow Burn: Translating “Jeans Prose” by Billjana Jovanovic
John K. Cox, NDSU

The Outrage of the Disabled Body
Andrew J. Harnish, UND           

11:45-1:30
Lunch and Keynote:
Ballroom

Opening Remarks
Debbie Storrs, Dean, UND College of Arts and Sciences 

If You Are Not Mad, You’re Not Paying Attention” Outrage as Performance, Industry and Politics in Contemporary America
Mark Jendrysik, UND  

1:30-2:45
Roundtable
Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline: A Dialogue at the University of North Dakota
Lecture Bowl 

Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, UND
Cody Hall, Alumni UND
Chase Iron Eyes, Alumni UND
James Grijalva, UND
Jaynie Parrish, UND
Mark Trahant, UND 

1:30-2:45
Panel
The Outrage of History: The Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism in Modern Discourse
River Valley Room 

The Black Peter Discussion: the limits of tolerance in the Netherlands
Ernst Pijning, MSU

North V. South: The Legacy of the ‘African Holocaust’ in Ghana
Ty M. Reese, UND

Undermining Outrage: Native Participants in the Conquest of Mexico
Bradley T. Benton, NDSU           

3:00-4:30
Round-Table
How about a Third Place? A Panel Discussion about Downtown Real Estate and Building Community
Lecture Bowl

David R. Haeselin, UND
Sheila M. Liming, UND
Sheryl O. O’Donnell, UND
Bret Weber, UND           

3:00-4:00
Performance
River Valley Room

Entransed: The Making of a Transnational Woman
Monika Browne, VCSU

3:00-5:00
2016 North Dakota Arts & Humanities Faculty & Student Exhibition Reception
Colonel Eugene E. Myers Art Gallery (Hughes Fine Art Center)

Friday Quick Hits and Varia

It was a busy week here at Archeology of the Mediterranean World Headquarters. The North Dakota University System Arts and Humanities Outrage Summit is in full planning mode, Mobilizing the Past is in final review, and the Eagles are 2-0. Unfortunately, the news isn’t all good as two disturbing, racial incidents on the University of North Dakota’s fine campus have marred the arrival of fall.

Most of what’s going on here in Grand Forks, ND, can serve as a learning opportunity for our community and our university, but the same probably cannot be said of my quick hits and varia:

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Outrage: First Draft of Opening Comments

I spent this morning working on a draft of some very brief opening comments for the 2016 North Dakota University System Arts and Humanities Summit. The topic is OUTRAGE. My comments will be very brief and introduce UND’s new president Mark Kennedy.

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The first word in Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, is μῆνιν, wrath, and with it begins the Western literary tradition and, in some ways, our current disciplines of humanistic inquiry. The anger of Achilles drives the Iliad through the violence of the Trojan war. Wrath is the subject of the poet’s work. 

My specialty is the late antiquity during which many of the the Western world’s social, political, and cultural institutions emerged. This was also a time of barbarian invasions, civil wars, the sack of cities – even Rome – and, perhaps most significantly, violent and vigorous religious disputes. These disputes spurred outrage both among prelates, provincials, and, of course, the Emperor, his court, and his army. As the great bishop Gregory of Nyssa observed “If you ask for your change, someone philosophizes to you on the Begotten and the Unbegotten. If you ask the price of bread, you are told, “The Father is greater and the Son inferior.” If you ask, “Is the bath ready?” someone answers, “The Son was created from nothing.”

These most outrageous of times had a lasting impact on Christian theology, political boundaries, and the cultural landscape of Europe and the West and continues to shape conflicts “at the edge of Europe” today.

Closer to home, outrage has a significant role to play in contemporary political and social conversations across the US, in North Dakota, and across the NDUS. In fact, I corresponded a bit with Robert Kibler from Minot State, and he argues that the first Liberal Arts Summit in 2001 originated in a series of tense conversations between various state board members, university presidents, the chancellor, and Kibler who pushed publicly for a liberal arts summit to complement more technology and business oriented research summit convened by the NDUS. Perhaps these tense conversations did not achieve the standard of outrage…

Nevertheless, anger, frustration, and passion are potent creative and generative forces from the dawn of Western literature, the formation of Europe, and the recent foment at the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Camp at Cannoball, among the faculty and students in Music Therapy here at UND, and in the myriad smaller – and certainly less significant events – that cause spasms of outrage to punctuate our daily lives. I can’t help but thinking that without outrage our world would be a far less vibrant place.

Slow Reconsidered

This week, for various reasons, I’ve started to re-think my position on “slow.” As readers of this blog know, I started to use appeals to the slow movement as an endearing and popular hook for some of my ideas about archaeological field practice, technology, and even teaching in the last few years. I co-edited a volume of the public humanities journal North Dakota Quarterly on slow and have published a pair of articles on “slow archaeology.”

At the same time, I’ve thought a good bit about speed and teaching and recently enjoyed Michael Serres book, Thumbelina which argues that millennials have profoundly different ways of engaging the world and that we should embrace and celebrate this. Serres views runs counter to folks who see “slow teaching” as an antidote to the quickening pace of every day because it sees the pace and connectivity of the world something that a problem that teachers need to solve, rather than an opportunity that we should embrace. At its most insistent, the need for slow teaching blurs with calls for reform in academia more broadly. Margie Berg and Barbara Seeber offer a flawed, but well-meaning treatment of academia as a blurred space of slowness (and I review this book here and here). 

A very recent article by Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine prompted me to revisit these ideas. Sullivan was one of the first new media superstars and this thoughtful article reflected on the toll that his immersion in the 24-hour news cycle and the hyper-connected online world took on his mental, physical, and spiritual health. It makes a compelling case for us to slow down. At the same time that I am making final revisions on an article on slow archaeology slated to appear in this book. My own arguments for a slow archaeology and my immediate (non-slow!) appreciation of Sullivan’s article feel like they contradict my desire for fast teaching and enthusiasm for Serres’s view of the millennial generation. While I have some tolerance for contradiction in my thought, I took a walk yesterday convinced that this contradiction could and should be resolved.

Here’s what I thought:

First, I’ve increasingly come to appreciate slow archaeology as less of an issue of archaeological practice and more of an ethical issue. In other words, digital practices will continue to influence how we do archaeology in the field, but our entanglement with digital tools and a vastly complex ecosystem of commercial products is no less challenging that the legacy of colonialism, sexism, and economic inequality that shaped archaeological practices for the last century. Just as archaeologists have critically engaged  these complicated legacies in an effort to create a more ethnic and responsible discipline, we should also engage critically our approach to technology. These are lessons about digital tools in our discipline and the structure of our discipline more broadly that I’ve learned from Eric KansaÖmür Harmanşah, and Richard Rothaus. I’m not sure that I understood this aspect of my argument very well in the last two things that I’ve published on slow archaeology, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m getting it now. The spread of digital technology into our field and publication practices is not just about how we document material culture and produce archaeological knowledge, but also how we engage a commercial ecosystem that has values which often run explicitly counter to those associated with our discipline.

Second, critical resistance to technology is not the only way forward, of course. Our students, for example, have grown up immersed in this technology and thrive in a connected, accelerated, and global world. While there is nothing wrong about asking students to put down their phones, close their laptops, and unplug, we should be aware that our students life with technology is fundamentally different from our own. Sullivan observes as much when deeply immersed in a meditation retreat, he reconnects with a childhood full of emotional trauma and largely devoid of technology. As a result, Sullivan sees a world of bird songs, tree bark, and mottled sunlight as “real.” Our students today largely grew up with technology and just as crowded neighborhood eateries, well-worn woodland trails, and freshly-mown suburban lawns represent the real world to my generation, a digitally-mediated existence reflects the reality for our students. The pace of a digital world that makes those of us who worked to normalize the pre-digital “life of the mind” feel disoriented and overwhelmed, may not influence our students in the same way.

Finally, the idea that we need to slow down to be critical of how we engage the world is something that archaeologists and teachers should attend to. The pace of digital life makes the siren call of efficiency and speed in archaeology unavoidable. As archaeology is always the work of translation and mediation between material traces of the past and the present, our view of the past is shaped not only by the tools that we use, but our fundamental view of the world. As digital technology has become implicit in how we see the world – particularly the millennial generation who have grown up without whatever idyllic conceits we reserve for “reality” – it is inevitable that our archaeology will become more digital. At the same time, maintaining critical awareness of these changes will preserve an awareness of our disciplinary lens without invalidating the experience of the next generation of scholars. 

This is not a situation that leads to a simple resolution. Rejecting slow teaching runs the risk of putting “pre-digital” faculty in an uncomfortable and inauthentic position, alienating a generation of students who are already prone to resist our pedagogy, and forfeiting a critical opportunity to understand how technology shapes our world. Rejecting slow archaeology, carries fewer practical problems (as the tradition of slow archaeology (pre-digital and otherwise) persists throughout the world) and more ethical challenges as it risks normalizing efficiency, speed, and precision as crucial considerations for archaeological knowledge production.

An Archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus

Over the last six months or so, Jody Gordon and I have been working on a survey article on the archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus for the Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology. I think the draft is more or less ready for sharing.

We’ve titled it “The Holy Island: An Archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus” and here’s the abstract:

The archaeology of Early Christian Cyprus represents one of the most significant case studies of how early Christianity developed because of the island’s unique geohistorical background and the diverse nature of its material remains. When combined with local hagiographical resources, Cyprus’ material culture illustrates the gradual development of a unique form of Early Christian society between the fourth and seventh centuries CE that drew on both local and imperial influences. This chapter contributes to such perspectives by offering an introduction to Early Christian Cyprus’ archaeological corpus vis-à-vis the island’s unique Late Antique eastern Mediterranean context. It examines basilicas, baptisteries, mosaics and church décor, funerary structures, coins and seals, metalwork, epigraphy, and ceramics to reveal the discipline’s main research foci and suggests topics for future investigation. 

I’ve uploaded a draft to my academia.edu page here.

It might be fun to read this paper with a unpublished paper that I wrote with R. Scott Moore on the history of settlement in Cyprus in the 7th and 8th centuries. I’ve posted that paper to academia.edu as well.

If I was ambitious and had time and energy, I could imagine these two papers being the start of an archaeological history of Early Christian Cyprus.

Mobilizing the Past: The Blurb for the Book

I’m pretty excited that Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future is almost ready and will appear next month from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. We’re sorting through some last minute edits, getting the online component finalized, and starting to spread the word.

As part of that, do check out the book blurb and the table of contents below the cover. 

MtP Cover 3dirt

Mobilizing the Past is a collection of 20 articles that explore the use and impact of mobile digital technology in archaeological field practice. The detailed case studies present in this volume range from drones in the Andes to iPads at Pompeii, digital workflows in the American Southwest, and examples of how bespoke, DIY, and commercial software provide solutions and craft novel challenges for field archaeologist. The range of projects and contexts ensures that Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future is far more than a state-of-the-field manual or technical handbook. Instead, the contributors embrace the growing spirit of critique present in digital archaeology. This critical edge, backed by real projects, systems, and experiences, gives the book lasting value as both a glimpse into present practices as well as the anxieties and enthusiasm associated with the most recent generation of mobile digital tools.

This book emerged from a workshop funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities and convened in 2015 at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. The conference brought together over 20 leading practitioners of digital archaeology in the U.S. for a weekend of conversation. The papers in this volume reflect the discussions at this workshop with significant additional content. Starting with an expansive introduction and concluding with a series of reflective papers, this volume illustrates how tablets, connectivity, sophisticated software, and powerful computers have transformed field practices and offer potential for a radically transformed discipline.

Edited by Erin Walcek Averett, Jody Michael Gordon, and Derek B. Counts
With contributions by Rebecca Bria, Bridget Buxton, William Caraher, J. Andrew Dufton, Steven J. R. Ellis, Samuel B. Fee, Eric C. Kansa, Morag M. Kersel, Marcelo Castro López, Christopher F. Motz, Eric E. Poehler, Brandon R. Olson, Adam Rabinowitz, Matthew Sayre, Adela Sobotkova, Matthew Spigelman, John Wallrodt, and Steven Wernke

Table of Contents

Introduction. Mobile Computing in Archaeology: Exploring and Interpreting Current Practices
Jody Michael Gordon, Erin Walcek Averett, and Derek B. Counts

1.1. Why Paperless: Technology and Changes in Archaeological Practice, 1996–2016
John Wallrodt

1.2. Are We Ready for New (Digital) Ways to Record Archaeological Fieldwork? A Case Study from Pompeii
Steven J. R. Ellis

1.3. Sangro Valley and the Five (Paperless) Seasons: Lessons on Building Effective Digital Recording Workflows for Archaeological Fieldwork
Christopher F. Motz

1.4. DIY Digital Workflows on the Athienou Archaeological Project, Cyprus
Jody Michael Gordon, Erin Walcek Averett, Derek B. Counts, Kyosung Koo, and Michael K. Toumazou

1.5. Enhancing Archaeological Data Collection and Student Learning with a Mobile Relational Database
Rebecca Bria and Kathryn E. DeTore

1.6. Digital Archaeology in the Rural Andes: Problems and Prospects
Matthew Sayre

1.7. Digital Pompeii: Dissolving the Fieldwork-Library Research Divide
Eric E. Poehler

2.1. Reflections on Custom Mobile App Development for Archaeological Data Collection
Samuel B. Fee

2.2. The Things We Can Do with Pictures: Image-Based Modeling and Archaeology
Brandon R. Olson

2.3 Beyond the Basemap: Multiscalar Survey through Aerial Photogrammetry in the Andes
Steven A. Wernke, Gabriela Oré, Carla Hernández, Aurelio Rodríguez, Abel Traslaviña, and Giancarlo Marcone

2.4. An ASV (Autonomous Surface Vehicle) for Archaeology: The Pladypos at Caesarea Maritima, Israel
Bridget Buxton, Jacob Sharvit, Dror Planer, Nikola Mišković, and John Hale

3.1. Cástulo in the 21st Century: A Test Site for a New Digital Information System
Marcelo Castro López, Francisco Arias de Haro, Libertad Serrano Lara, Ana L. Martínez Carrillo, Manuel Serrano Araque, and Justin Walsh

3.2. Measure Twice, Cut Once: Cooperative Deployment of a Generalized, Archaeology-Specific Field Data Collection System Adela Sobotkova, Shawn A. Ross, Brian Ballsun-Stanton, Andrew Fairbairn, Jessica Thompson, and Parker VanValkenburgh

3.3. CSS for Success? Some Thoughts on Adapting the Browser-Based Archaeological Recording Kit (ARK) for Mobile Recording
J. Andrew Dufton

3.4. The Development of the PaleoWay Digital Workflows in the Context of Archaeological Consulting
Matthew Spigelman, Ted Roberts, and Shawn Fehrenbach

4.1. Slow Archaeology: Technology, Efficiency, and Archaeological Work
William Caraher

4.2. Click Here to Save the Past
Eric C. Kansa

5.1. Response: Living a Semi-digital Kinda Life
Morag M. Kersel

5.2. Response: Mobilizing (Ourselves) for a Critical Digital Archaeology
Adam Rabinowitz

Friday Quick Hits and Varia

 Fall has come to North Dakotaland with football, school, and what passes for foliage in these parts. Formula 1 is in Singapore, the NASCAR crew is in Chicagoland, Ohio State travels to Oklahoma and the Eagles are on Monday Night Football. Should be a good weekend to sit back and contemplate the mysteries of the universe and catch up on some quick hits and varia:

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Oil Patch Patina

I generally don’t blog about a book until I’m done reading it, but I am pretty excited about Shannon Lee Dawdy’s recent book, Patina: A Profane Archaeology (Chicago 2015). There are some good reviews on the interwebs for anyone interested in getting a broader sense of the book.

What drew me into this book was Dawdy’s exploration of the concept of patina in the first chapter or so. In New Orleans, patina has long described the slightly thread-worn, faded, and polished character of the city. The patina is maintained, Dawdy argues intentionally and after Katrina, an additional and significant layer of “Katrina Patina” has linked places and objects explicitly to the storm and recovery.

These ideas fascinated me on two levels. First – and most whimsically – I’ve been interested in the conversations around vintage watch collecting. What’s drawn me to these conversations is the combination of technical details (and remarkable craft) and signs of wear. It appears, for example, that collectors have rather strict criteria for the development of patina on the watch. For example, evidence for interventions – such as polishing or re-applying lume to the face – are generally seen as negative, but the gradual fading of the face and the lume, particularly if it is uniform and reveals colors or patterns less visible in the original colors and design of the watch. The more interesting and uniform the patina, the more appealing (and generally pricey) they watch. For example here and here and here.

What drew me to Dawdy’s book, other than recommendations from some trusted colleagues, is that she thinks about the tension between the past and present in New Orleans, in a way reminiscent of Michael Herzfeld’s treatment Rhethmenos on Crete. I have started to wonder a bit about how things will play out in the Bakken oil patch now that it has well and truly entered the bust cycle. My experience out west is that the Bakken towns had accumulated patina during the boom. The signs of habitual wear, in Dawdy’s definition, mark the roads, buildings, and landscapes of the Bakken leaving it with a patina that lacked the romance of the old New Orleans, but is clearly visible. The worn boot scrapers at hotel and restaurant doors, the rutted roads, and the bruised and burnished tables and bars at local watering holes all carry forward evidence for the boom. This Oil Patch Patina becomes the persistent reminder of the cycle of boom and bust and the wear exerted on communities, objects, and buildings during the boom lingers on as the resources to overwrite the patinated landscape dissipates with the end of the boom.