The Soon and the Summer

I bought by tickets to Greece for next summer and I need to buy my tickets from Athens to Cyprus this week. After a year away from my work on Cyprus to focus on the Western Argolid Regional Project in Greece, I’m going to return to Polis-Chrysochous for a three-week study season starting May 5. Then heading to Greece for almost two months on May 25th or 26th. This all means that planning for the summer has to start now.

First, the next few weeks will prove to be busy, but exciting.

On April 8th-11th, I’ll host Andrew Reinhard and Richard Rothaus on campus for a public showing of the documentary, Atari: Game Over, and an academic round-table on the archaeology of gaming and the contemporary world.

On April 7th, I take a quick trip to Fargo for a dissertation defense. 

On April 18th, I’ll be in at the Mary Jaharis Center in Brookline, MA to participate in a roundtable on “Byzantium in the Public Sphere” and somehow simultaneously at a Man Camp Dialogue presentation in Ellendale.      

Over the same stretch of time, I need to put the finishing touches on two sabbatical projects. One is the final round of revisions on the North Dakota Man Camp Project paper for Historical Archaeology, and the other is a book proposal for the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch, which is become a more and more compelling project every passing week. The book proposal is virtually done and I have a meaningful draft of the manuscript in hand. Now all I need to make is a few final touches and pull the trigger. I’m also doing the final revisions on an article for Internet Archaeology on archeological blogging.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to put together the kit of necessary summer gear that has to be ordered and sorted out before the start of May.

1. New Laptop. My three year old 15-inch Dell XPS has finally become unusable thanks to a combination of Windows 8 and some kind of nagging hardware issues. So I have to order a quad-core Dell Precision 15-inch today with 16-gb of ram. 3D image processing takes a tremendous amount of power.

2. New GPS unit. My trusty, 10 year old Garmin Gecko was stolen from my 12-year-old truck this past fall. We used Garmin Oregon 650s this past summer in Greece because we could upload aerial photographs to them and they had 8-megapixel cameras. In turns out that the cameras were not particularly useful and drained the battery. So this summer, I’ll purchase a Garmin 600 which is the same unit without a camera.

3. Camera. I love my Panasonic GX1, but the camera will be going on its third field season and has enjoyed such exotic opportunities as being used in a landfill in a dust storm, being lugged up every elevation in the Western Argolid without a lens cap, and several trips to the froze tundra of North Dakota. My hope is that it survives this summer, but I bought a fall back camera, a Canon ELPH135, which is discontinued and sells for less than $90 on Amazon. It’s nowhere near as good as the Panasonic, but it’s small, cheap, and good enough for a backup camera.

4. Microphone. With my career as a podcaster slowly gaining momentum, I need a small, decent USB microphone. Suggestions? For our podcasts, I’ve used a Blue Yeti, but this is a heavy microphone and I need to save some weight for, you know, three months of clothing.

5. Music. Living away from home for this long of a time is hard on me for a range of reasons (wife, dog, house, other responsibilities), but part of the thing that makes it hard is that I go from being alone most of the time to being surrounding by people most of the time. My escape is listening to music. To facilitate this, I have seriously upgraded my mobile music kit. First, I got a pair of new Audeze EL-8, closed back headphones and a little bird has hinted that I’ll get a new ALO Rx MK3 B+ amplifier which appears to be getting phased out of the ALO line-up and is now available at steeply discounted prices from their warehouse page. The amp is probably overkill for the EL-8s, but I suspect even in single-ended mode (balanced cables are not yet available for the EL-8s) it’ll provide a bit more oomph for the relatively efficient EL-8s as well as the option to move to a balanced set up in the future. 

6. Books. Usually I make a request for summer reading recommendations, but this summer, it looks like the American Journal of Archaeology has that all sorted out for me. I’m going to be working on a review article featuring several new books on the archaeology of the contemporary world and the growing interest in materiality among archaeologists. That being said, I’ll need to track down a few recreational books to read this summer, preferably with spaceships in them. 

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

We’re in that delightful time between winter and spring when its still below freezing in the morning but warms over the course of the day. There are enough clouds in the sky to give us beautiful sunrises and sunsets, but not so many to keep the strengthening sun from providing that little extra warmth on our afternoon walks. It’s a lovely time of year. I only wish that it didn’t extend from early March to the middle of May here in North Dakotaland.

Before I start my usual list of quick hits and varia, I want to remind you to check out my buddy James Bradley Wells new book of poetry, The Kazantzakis Guide to Greece, which is available for pre-order here. It’s $12.40. Preorder it.

Also, check out our Call-for-Papers for the Bakken Goes Bust? Conference in October, and do listen to the most recent Caraheard podcast

IMG 3002

Poetry for Greece

My post today is about poetry. It is also an advertisement. It’s not, an advertisement for myself, which will probably come as a shock to many of you.

My old friend James Bradley Wells has prepared his second book of poetry, The Kazantzakis Guide to Greece. His first book of poems, Bicycle, appeared a few years ago and you can get it here. He also wrote a book on Pindar.

If you like Greece and like poetry, then you should pre-order a copy of his book

Jamesframe

So, I’m advertising James’s poetry book here for a few reasons. First, the book is about Greece and is due to appear on July 15th. While I complained that this publication date made it impossible for me to take the book to Greece and read it after a long day in the field, James assured me that the best time for reading this book is in the late summer as I reminisce (fondly at that point) about my times in Greece while sitting on my front porch ignoring the start of the semester.  

Some of the poems came from his time at the American School of Classical Studies when we had neighboring rooms in the annex. He introduced me to performance theory and Erving Goffman and Richard Bauman, and patiently (tried to) explain to me how their ideas could expand my reading of Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens. To this day, I have never felt smarter (and more humble) than when I was sitting at Kolonaki Square with James on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee, talking about our work.

I can clearly recall his excitement when he returned from Crete having seen Katzantzakis’s tomb in Heraklion. So while I’m just making my way through a generously-offer (ok, I begged) manuscript now, I can already hear certain rhythms in his poetry that remind me of my time in Athens over a decade ago, and the list of sites evokes will only be more meaningful to people who endured the famous American School Regular Program. The American School should certainly pre-order a copy and add it to their collection of work produced under their auspices.

Finally, the book is being published by a small, but award winning press in Georgetown, Kentucky: Finish Line Press. They are counting on a certain number of pre-orders before they’ll begin production. While this might horrify those of us used to working with larger commercial ventures or subsidized academic, university presses, these kinds of strategies are what small presses need to do to make ends meet. What I like about this system, though, is that it makes buying this book less of a straight commercial transaction (I want, so I buy) and more of a decision about whether one thinks this kind of thing should exist. 

Here is some of the poetry:

I do not have the tonguefeel for nomenclature.
Names of things are the second fork beside
a dinner plate. I never know just what

to say if checkerspots, coppers, elfins, azures,
metalmarks light upon salvia, lavender blossoms,
coneflower, or coreopsis. If cedar waxwing

or purple finch complains when I compete
with them and pick serviceberries, I do not know
the words to mark the surprise of its being the case

that these creatures heckle me so. Nomenclature clouds
me over, but the panorama of wing
possesses me. A skybound god’s same unsayable

hemline trailing down the aisle of time’s
cathedral, wing and horizon are the same.

~~~~~

Here’s some more, a ghazal (which is not the same as an antelope, but some form of poetry). For those who know something about poetry and the ghazal, in particular, check out the last line for some insider, poetry cleverness. This is what happens when someone who studies Pindar

Olympia in nimbostratus October chronicles the word naós.
Zeus Olympios, Phidias’ art, Jesus Pancrator, each Lord’s naós.

Gold leaf, ivory panels, glass sheets, jewels, and copper fixed
to wooden core, the skyscraping icon dwelt in god’s naós.

One of the ancient world’s seven wonders, Phidias sculpted
Lord Zeus’ icon in his unquitting workshop, this replica naós.

Libation vessels, golden censers, the table where the reverent
offered bread, Antiochus pillaged the Jewish Lord’s naós.

Assyrians handwove a woolen curtain dyed in Tyrian purple,
the Temple veil that Antiochus offered at Zeus’ naós.

Archaeologists discovered sculptor’s tools, terra cotta molds,
centuries after Christians repurposed Phidias’ replica naós.

I belong to Phidias inscribed on the bottom of a cup.
Lichened, pockmarked column drums, Greek is a language scarred by naós.

~~~~

So pre-order copies of his book for yourself (because it’s good), for other people (as a gift), and for the entire community. Doing what we can for small presses like this to thrive and for passionate work to see the light of day is good for everyone. Plus, the book only costs a penny less than $12.50.  

Three Unrelated Things: the Homeshow, Lemonskinheads, and the UND Writers Conference

Sometimes I get a backlog of blog ideas and I realize that it makes more sense to push them out in a disjointed post than to wait for some opportunity to expand each idea into a individual posts. I realize that this violates a rule of writing which states that writers should give their ideas room to stretch out and not cram too many thoughts together in one place. I’ve never been good at that.

So here are three unrelated things combined in a single post: 

1. The University of North Dakota Writers’ Conference starts today! If you spend any time at the University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks, or in North Dakota, you know about the Writers Conference. In fact, if you know anything about UND at all, it’s likely to be their long tradition of hosting one of the great writers’ conferences in the U.S. As people might recall, the Writers Conference was almost sacrificed to budgetary priorities advanced by careerist administrators looking to prove that they’re tough enough to stand up to faculty and make “hard choices.” Fortunately, the community and donors rallied to save the conference. 

This year the theme is “The Other Half” and will feature women writers who write about gender and race. But as always, the Writers Conference is more than that, it is an opportunity to hear writers talk about their craft. The lunchtime panels are completely enthralling and well worth sacrificing a lunch hour! So go and check it out this week! 

2. The Home Show. This past weekend, my wife and I went to the Grand Forks Home Show. I’d never been to such a thing! Apparently the purpose of the home show is to show off various ways to improve, change, or repair one’s home. According the local newspaper, over 150 vendors rented booths at the show and thousands attended. As an archaeologist with an interest in the contemporary world, the Home Show fascinated me. Here in one place was an example of many objects that might appear in an archaeological assemblage from a modern home. There were three or four booths showing off cook pots, for example, and we know from our experiences in Bakken that cookware is often left behind when a temporary settlement is abandoned. There were two or three vendors showing off windows, which if our home is any indication, are a common object set aside in provisional discard even when they have been replaces (and can, in the right hands, be the objects of salvage). There were several firms advertising landscaping services by elaborate displays. Because the materials in these displays are relatively low value and designed for a particular space, they tend to persist at a place and accumulate traces of earlier landscaping efforts. Unsurprisingly the vendors at the show were almost all men, suggesting that the materiality of the home and its immediate environs continues to be something constructed (in a physical sense) by men even if the gender balance between the visitors appeared more even.

3. The Empire Theater and Usama Dakdok. Last week, the anti-Muslim speaker Usama Dakdok came to Grand Forks. He was brought to town by one or another conservative evangelical church and sponsored by the local conservative Christian radio station. Dakdok is know as an inflammatory speaker and leverages his Egyptian heritage to purport inside information about Islam to help Christians convert their Muslim neighbors. His talks have a pseudo-academic structure where he presents his “more authentic” translation of the Quran and compares it unfavorably – apparently almost at random – to passages in the Christian Bible. Whatever one things about Christian-Muslim relations, Dakdok provides very little substance and considerable fuel to already enflamed audience who fear the imminent arrival of ISIS type militants, Sharia law, and anti-Christian pogroms in their small town. 

His reputation proceeds him, of course, and in many communities he struggles to find a venue to spout his venom. This has apparently allowed him to play the victim and to demonstrate the urgency of his message. The grand plot against God-fearing Christians is already well underway, because his truth is being suppressed. As a few of my colleagues pointed out, this kind of rabble rousing has a long history in American political life where conspiracies, secret knowledge, identity politics, and playing the victim often combine to fuel the fires of hatred. 

In light of this situation, I expressed disappointment that the Empire Arts Center (our local early 20th century movie house turned to an arts center) agreed to host a speaker like Dakdok and suggested to some colleagues that the Empire Arts Center might no longer be a great venue for, say, a lecture series organized by the International Studies program to explore ideas of global diversity. Two things made our conversation all the more emphatic. First was a confused Op-Ed piece in the Grand Forks Herald which somehow celebrated the Empire Arts Center for allowing hate speech in its venue as an important opportunity for the community to consider Dakdok’s views as a valid contribution to a global conversation on religious difference. Second, with the appearance of some anti-immigrant graffiti directed at Somali immigrants in town, the Herald cautioned us from jumping to conclusions and claiming that our community has a race problem. Ironically, if the views expressed appeared in a venue like the Empire rather than on the wall of a local strip mall, then, according to the Herald we should celebrate the vitality of civic conversation: “Some claim Dakdok’s speech was beyond the pale. But a big reason for the United States’ world leadership and enormous strength is the fact that we trust debate — not repression — to resolve political quarrels.”

The upshot of our conversations is a meeting with the folks at the Empire, mediated and facilitated by a city council member and some fine folks at the University of North Dakota. We do not want to damage the Empire as a civic institution because it’s a great venue, a good partner, and an asset to the community, but we do want to make sure that we expect more them. It’s not that we’re angry, we’re just very disappointed.

One good thing to come out of all this is that I discovered calling Usama Dakdok, Evan Dakdok is pretty fun (for me). It’s a mash-up of Dakdok with the drug-addled lead singer of the Lemonheads, Evan Dando. Evan Dakdok is the frontman of a band called the Lemonskinheads. So that’s fun.

 

Adventures in Podcasting 6

We’re rolling out Episode 6 in our first season of Caraheard a bit early this week because our unofficial, non-sponsor The University of North Dakota Writers’ Conference, begins tomorrow at 10 am.  

Richard’s show notes have been putting mine to shame so I need to step it up today. In this week’s episode we discuss the storage crisis in archaeology prompted by a recent forum in the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies. I start with the observation that everything is getting bigger and expanding (as Woody Allen once observed, the universe is expanding) except archaeological storage. In fact, companies like Amazon have multiple warehouses ranked among the largest buildings in the world and they’re patrolled by ROBOTS. Richard returns us to archaeology and contextualizes the storage crisis within larger issues of archaeological method (including storing artifacts in plastic bags purchased from a guy who sells pomegranate seeds). Richard and then Bill, finally, get to the point that storage crisis is a proxy (war?) for larger issues within the discipline, before returning the discussion to the reality that modern consumer culture is rapidly becoming part of that archaeological record. So maybe, the archaeological universe is expanding. 

Enjoy this week’s podcast, check us out on iTunes, and feel free to drop us a line in the comments here, over at Caraheard.com, or via email. Let us know how wrong we are, what would make listening to our podcast better, or anything else!  

Some things we mention during the podcast:

First, the Morag Kersell et al. forum in the JEMAHS is here, and my blogged response is here.

The famous (and let’s hope ironic or at very least post-ironic) Lansing Community College job ad is here.

The Tragedy of the Commons.

I could not find a link to Richard’s flocks of hypersexualized rabbits, but I’m sort of fine with that.

Richard’s dissertation.

R. Scott Moore’s dissertation on the pottery dump at Isthmia.

Here’s a brief biography of Paul Clement who was the director of the UCLA excavations at Isthmia.

Here’s a discussion of the Fountain of the Lamps

Here’s an example of what can be done with material in storerooms excavated many years ago at Polis-Chrysochous.

I think we’ve linked to Corinth excavations before, but here is a link again.

Here’s David Yoder’s article in Advances in Archaeological Practice titled “Interpreing the 50 Year Rule: How a Simple Phrase Leads to a Complex Problem.”

Finally, if you want to buy a genuine American antiquity, you can go shop here.

Call for Papers: The Bakken Goes Bust? New Research on Communities, Challenges, and Culture in the Bakken Oil Patch

Over the past month, I’ve been working with Kyle Conway and Carenlee Barkdull to organize a conference on new research, challenges, and culture in the Bakken oil patch. We are particularly interested in research that considers how the patch is adapting to the current decline in oil prices, production, and activity in the Bakken, but we also recognize the the current bust might not be a permanent state so we are equally interested in works that considers changes in the Bakken related to any number of political, social, and economic issues.    

Some of our motivation comes from the time that Kyle and I have spent editing the Bakken Goes Boom volume. The papers in this volume are, in general, fine and sophisticated, but are also a bit preliminary. We recognize that we only captured a sliver of the important research taking place in the Bakken and, in many cases, on the the preliminary results of this work.

So the Digital Press has teamed up with the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines to hold a one-day conference on Friday October 30th at the University of North Dakota. We hope to be able to run a couple of formal paper sessions and a couple of workshop sessions where people from the arts, humanities, and social sciences discuss their work and the work presented in the formal papers. We plan to have a 

Here’s the call for papers. Abstracts are due July 1. Contact me for more details.

The Bakken Goes Bust?
New Research on Communities, Challenges, and Culture in the Bakken Oil Patch

For most of the past decade, the Bakken oil boom has generated unprecedented economic growth, population increases, and industrialization in western North Dakota. For much of this time, researchers in North Dakota and surrounding states have worked to understand the impact of the Bakken Boom on the state, the participants in the new economic growth, and long-standing communities in the affected regions. The rapid changes in region, the difficulties acquiring reliable data, and the myriad of interrelated challenges and opportunities facing the Bakken region have spurred creative projects and research initiatives prompted by wide range of challenging questions concerning the impact of the boom.

The Bakken Goes Bust? conference invites abstracts for contributions (<250 words) from scholars involved in all area of social science and humanities research, teaching, and creative work that explore the challenges associated with the Bakken oil boom. While this conference encourages submissions on any recent Bakken research, we are particularly interested in research and creative activities that embrace the “spatial turn” in the humanities and social sciences, considers the rhetoric of boom (and bust), examines the impact of social or new media on communities, situates the Bakken boom in a national or global context, or explores issues of crime, discrimination, and social justice in the patch.

The one-day conference will feature formal papers as well as interactive workshop sessions over the course of a single day. A public event in downtown Grand Forks will offer a critical capstone to the day’s events and provide an opportunity for socializing and outreach. The one-day conference will be held at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND on Friday, October 30th. Abstracts are due by July 1.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has expressed interest in publishing the proceedings of the conference as a companion volume to their Bakken Goes Boom book slated to appear in the fall of 2015.

Bakken Goes Bust Poster 01

Part of the fun of this conference is that we’re working with almost no budget so we’re approaching it punk rock style. In other words, we’re not going worry about whether every participant has a awesome UND branded folder and note pad. We’re not going to get anxious about whether every “stakeholder” has embossed invitations. We want to have actual conversations about the art, culture, and social world of the Bakken rather than to use this event to showcase how much UND cares about some imaginary place or problem or thing. We just want to do it. To show how punk rock I am, I did ignored the Oxford comma in the poster. And, I made the poster myself. Yeah! 

So we need a poster in black-and-white with a type-o that we can staple to bulletin boards across campus.

Bakken Goes Bust Poster BW

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

This is a busy time of year for sports fans with the Cricket World Cup and the NCAA Basketball Tournament going on at the same time and the baseball players preparing for their summertime contests. I’m sure there are other sports as well. I think I heard something about ice hockeying. 

Despite the distractions, I did manage to pull together a little gaggle of quick hits and varia to watch between overs, quarters, or trimeters (or whatever ice hockeying has). Enjoy!

IMG 3001After owning the dog park…

IMG 2993… we rest.

Adventures in Podcasting 5

This episode of Caraheard contains an interview about Bill’s new book (to minute 56), and some particularly brilliant discussion of archaeologists and our perverse relationship with the media (minute 56 and after). If you are super pressed for time, buy the book and listen to the media portion (says Richard – Bill may disagree).

Richard interviews Bill about the new book: W. Caraher, R.S. Moore, and D.K. Pettegrew, with contributions from M. Andrioti, P.N. Kardulias, D. Nakassis, and B. Olson., Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town, American Schools of Oriental Research Archaeological Reports 21, Boston, MA, 2015. This part of Caraheard will also appear as part of the American Schools of Oriental Research Podcast.

Pyla-Koutsopetria I presents the results of an intensive pedestrian survey documenting the diachronic history of a 100 ha microregion along the southern coast of Cyprus. Located around 10 km from the ancient city of Kition, the ancient coastal settlements of the Koutsopetria mircoregion featured an Iron Age sanctuary, a Classical settlement, a Hellenistic fortification, a Late Roman town, and a Venetian-Ottoman coastal battery situated adjacent to a now infilled, natural harbor on Larnaka Bay. This publication integrates a comprehensive treatment of methods with a discussion of artifact distribution, a thorough catalogue of finds, and a diachronic history to shed light on one of the few undeveloped stretches of the Cypriot coast.

During our discussion, Bill exaggerates the excruciating boredom of the first few chapters, while Richard points out that there are pictures and even the names of the cannon-fodder field walkers.

Richard also manages to mispronounce almost everyone’s name, including, shockingly, P. Nick Kardulias’ name. P. Nick Kardulias, the man who took a soft, weak, ignorant, and insufferably Richard under his wing and taught him to be the ultimate field archaeologist. The man who taught Richard that if you want to stack you coins by size, ignore the mockers and do it. Well, done Richard.

Bill answers some questions that are the heart of the ASOR interview:

What got you interested in becoming an archaeologist?
Of all the places you could have worked, why Cyprus? And why Pyla-Koutsopetria?
How did you choose the area to survey, and how large is the area you’re surveying?
Who works/worked on the survey?
What kind of technology did you use to aid you in this survey?
How long does surveying a square take? How many squares did you survey?
What kinds of remains are you finding/did you find at PKAP?
How long does it take to analyze artifacts you find?
What is the significance of these remains? (And more crudely) Why should people care about your finds?
What can one look forward to when reading this book, and are there any special features?
If the area was such an active trade spot, why is it no longer?
After the book interview, Richard and Bill talk for awhile about archaeology and the media. We discuss how we love to complain about simple errors, how archaeology benefits from coverage, the media’s love of archaeological hype, and how the weird reactions reveal the insecurities of archaeologists.

Some Links!

We talk a bit about the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and also the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey. And also the Rough Cilicia Archaeological Survey.

The ManCamp Dialogues (Killdeer, ND) Frenzy:

Future generations can figure this out

Future generations can figure this out

Josh Wheeler’s “The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard” in Harpers. Josh claims Bill got “spooled up.”

Emily Guerin’s Meet The Men Who Study Man Camps in InsideEnergy.

We never get through a podcast without referencing The Ohio State University Excavations at Isthmia.

David Pettesherd Pettegrew has a most-respectable blog: Corinthian Matters.

Courtesy of the Wayback Machine, and with great embarrassment, here is Richard’s webpage for the aborted Ciudad Blanca project: The Rio Platano Cultural Landscape Project. Short version: If children with sawed-off shotguns guard the used clothing stores, it’s not a good place to take students on a project.

Take a look at this article on Mayan sacrifices, that also discusses media hype and looters. New Evidence of Ancient Child Trafficking Network.

Seventh Annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture: Andrew Reinhard and Raiford Guins on Digging E.T.

I’m super happy to announce the seventh annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture. This year, we’ll be joined by Andrew Reinhard of the American Numismatic Society, in person, and Raiford Guins of University of Stony Brook, online, as well as Richard Rothaus (NDUS) and Bret Weber (UND, Social Work) to view and discuss the documentary Atari: Game Over. A showing of the film and a round table discussion will occur from 4-6 pm on April 9 at the Gorecki Alumni Center on the beautiful campus of the University of North Dakota. As per usual, the event will be streamed to a global audience.

But wait, there’s more! The good folks in the Working Group for Digital and New Media are coordinating a “legacy media” exhibit where we’ll have a working Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 that folks to come by and play. We’ll even have at least one game hooked to an old school CRT television. 

AtariDump

This year’s talk is pretty exciting because we’ll go beyond the standard format of lecturer at the podium and bring something interactive to the event. It will also be the first Cyprus Research Fund talk that will specifically deal with work in which I was involved (although David Pettegrew’s talk from 2010 included some nice photos of me in Greece!). As readers of this blog know, I participated in the Alamogordo Atari Expedition which Andrew Reinhard coordinated and directed. We wrote up some of our observations in an article for Ian Bogost’s Technology page at The Atlantic, and Andrew Reinhard has been on a global speaking tour. 

This will be the first time that the academic archaeology team has come back together to reflect on the documentary (which I review here) and the idea of excavating a fragment of our recent past. We’ve chatted informally across social and new media platforms and periodically in person, but we haven’t had a chance to sit down together and think critically about what we experienced. I hope that this will be the first of a few chances to do that and to make our thinking together as public as possible so that the community can feel involved in understanding the significance of their own past.

Mark you calendars now!

AtariGameOver share2

Past Cyprus Research Fund Talks:

2013/2014 Sarah Lepinski, “Archaeologies of Décor: Interiors in the Roman East”
2012/2013 Dimitri Nakassis, “Paupers and Peasants and Princes and Kings: Reconstructing Society in Late Bronze Age Greece.”
2011/2012 Kostis Kourelis, “Byzantium and the Avant Garde: American Excavations at Corinth, ca. 1930″
2011 (Bonus Talk) Eric Poehler, “Pompeii in the 21st Century”
2010/2011 David Pettegrew, “Setting the Stage for St. Paul’s Corinth”
2009/2010 Michael Fronda, “Anarchy Rivalry and the Beginnings of the Roman Empire” 

Surviving Sabbatical: Tourism, Landscapes, and The American West

The last two weeks have been a little rough and awkward here at Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Headquarter. I spent much of the first 7 months of sabbatical juggling projects and trying to get enough project’s going so that I can roll them out gradually over the next 4 or 5 years. This was fun and exciting the way that new projects are always fun and exciting (or at least more fun and exciting than old projects).

Unfortunately, over the last couple weeks, I’ve had this feeling that I need to finishing something. Two articles are in the able hands of a co-writer, my PKAP 2 manuscript is probably close to being ready for our last field season, and contributors should be receiving their contracts for an edited volume sometime soon. None of these projects (barring a remarkable outburst of productivity from one particular, delay-prone coauthor… ahem, hint, hint) are likely to be completed before I return to my teaching duties. 

And then there’s the other project. On my first sabbatical, I decided right about this time of year to write a paper called “Dream Archaeology.” This paper is still in process in various forms and has been given as an invited lecture a few times. It was fun to work on, but never really matured into something publishable at a top tier journal. This sabbatical, it’s the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch, and I am committed to making this manuscript happen and it not becoming the next “Dream Archaeology” paper.

So this week I wrote a book proposal for the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch, and my current plan is to submit it to Left Coast Press by the end of the month (I was trying to decide whether I should mention where I’m sending the proposal, but figured that it couldn’t do any harm, right?). I’m also working on revising a few of the chapters that can easily engoodened so that the press will receive something close to a complete manuscript for a short book (ca. 30,000 words). To do that, I’m targeting three things:

1. Landscapes. This project started as a landscape project. I love driving through the Bakken. In fact, driving through the Bakken is almost as involving for me as walking along a road or path in the Greek countryside (almost!). Like an American suburb, the Bakken is meant to be driven, and by driving along its main arteries or dusty side roads, we become part of the Bakken oil boom itself. My heroic truck blends in among the other working trucks, semis, and equipment rigs. The blurs of pipes, tanks, trailers, drilling and workover rigs (thanks, Chad!), construction projects, shelter belts, and distant farms reinforces the idea that the Bakken is both a modern non-place (in that some of the features in the landscape could be transported anywhere or could appear almost anywhere in the world) and deeply rooted in a specific place, history, and topography (not to mention the geology of shale oil and the Bakken). This intersection between the profoundly modern and the local makes the Bakken landscape compelling both as a general commentary on our contemporary world and as a moment of historical significance for North Dakota and the American West.

2. Tourism. In a fit of hubris, I decided that I could not only write a tourist guide, but also write about tourism. I felt that my time as a tourist in Greece, Cyprus, Australia, and places in the U.S. qualified me as a regular consumer of tourist literature and travel guides to engage in writing one. I think that my guide is a respectable imitation of such tourist staples as the Blue Guide or Baedekers. At the same time, my reading of a few of the classic Federal Writers Project accounts of western North Dakota, eastern Montana, and elsewhere gave me another point of reference for my project. Considering the literary luminaries who wrote for that program (and, significantly, my addiction to adverbs in particular), I can only say that I tried to writing in their spirit.  

Writing about tourism, however, was clearly a bridge too far. First off, the amount of literature on tourism is staggering (scholars of tourism need tenure too, it would appear), and even such marginal practices as “dark tourism,” “toxic tourism,” and “poorism” (the organized touring of poor and disadvantaged communities). Next, the conceptual frameworks for tourism are wide-ranging from the structuralism of Dean Maccannell to the post-modern critiques offered by John Urry and Tim Edensor.  Some of this stuff is pretty straight forward, but I feel like using tourist studies to understand landscapes (and how we in the modern world construct landscapes) in a critical way will be a massive challenge. Not only has modern tourism (whether industrial, toxic, eco, or otherwise) played a role in how we see modern landscapes, but it has also contributed to issues of heritage, archaeology (of the modern world), and conservation practices. It is pretty clear that I’m out of my depth here.

3. The American West. In my first year at UND, a bunch of us met with our dean of arts and sciences at the time. As per usual, there was a low grade panic about lack of current funds, lack of future funding, and the impossibility of compensating for previous lack of funds. When the dean asked us about our research plans for the next half decade, I muttered something about needing a local project that is relatively more insulated from financial vagaries of both local and federal funding agencies. While I’ve been lucky enough to keep funding for my foreign projects going, I’ve also worked to develop some very basic scholarly understanding of the American West and North Dakota history. I’d say that I have an advanced undergraduate knowledge of these fields.

For the Tourist Guide, I’ve had to bolster this a bit more by expanding my reading into the history of extractive industries in the West and their ambivalent relationships with communities dependent on these industries and struggling with costs of this kind of development once the extractive processes stop being fiscally viable. Some communities recognize the extractive industries as part of their history and seek to celebrate this heritage. Others have seen extractive industries as a kind of cautionary tale that requires constant revision to reinforce the critical links between industry, settlement, and the environment. This tensions can produce stories that are neither mutually exclusive nor overly complex, but this requires attention to nuance and narrative grounded in a sweeping understanding of Western and environmental history. Telling one story or the other is a far more simple task (and one that I’m probably more qualified to undertake) than trying to tell both at the same time.

So, I head to Cyprus in about 6 weeks and then I have another month or so when I get home (interrupted by family visits and another field work trip to the Bakken) to get my feet under me on these issues. Seems like this will probably be another one of those shaky sabbatical projects that lingers around my productive world like a bad smell…