The pre-game events for Punk Archaeology commenced last night and the enthusiasm is palpable. So, if you’re from North Dakotaland, be sure to come by Sidestreet Grille and Pub tonight at 7 pm for music and musings on punk rock, archaeology, and everything in between.
If you’re not from North Dakotaland, we are streaming events here.
My opening remarks are here:
As I sat back to think about my paper for this little gathering, I put on some early Replacements (Sorry Ma and Stink) and the newly remastered version of The Heartbreakers L.A.M.F. For some reason the former captured my attention far more than the latter even though the former was more refined in its presentation (at least more refined in that punk rock kind of way). The MC-5s iconic Kick Out the Jams or the original mix of Iggy and Stooges Raw Power are classic examples of the live, spontaneous, chaotic, unrefined sound that so many people associate with punk rock.
There is something archaeological about it. Maybe it’s the live or spontaneous sound that punk rock sold to so many kids in the late 1970s and 1980s. It was an excitement associated with music that sounded like anything could happen; a musical equivalent to reading Lester Bangs or Hunter S. Thompson. Listening to punk rock foreshadowed my wandering in the Greek countryside looking for things or, later, excavating where we encountered the possibility for anything and performed that possibility. We almost always had a plan, but we never were sure if our plan was any good. After all, we once excavated an Early Christian basilica and found a Hellenistic fortified camp.
When I discovered blogging in 2007, I recognized that a blog was the most punk version of academic publication. I am not sure that I’ve ever made a post on my blog without a typographical, grammatical, or spelling error. Yet my blog still gets read and talked about more than my most carefully edited articles. I often find myself learning to play my instrument as I perform. Like excavation or survey, my posts almost always begin with a point, but almost always end up someplace else. I don’t really edit or revise and have come to enjoy the spontaneity of writing to the public without the safety net of peer review. I’m sure that my blog is full of intellectual problems, faulty arguments, wrong notes, and dissonant moments.
I guess academics have generally tried to avoid writing in a provisional way or spontaneously. We frame our live conversations and conference papers with qualifiers, and our publications with equivocation buried by evidence. The overproduced corpus of formal archaeological publications obscures the archaeological act in a way that a punk archaeology resists. If archaeological publications represent the well manicured lawns of the suburbs, punk archaeology happens in the dirty, cramped garages or the dark and musty basements of the velvet underground. Punk archaeology celebrates spontaneous archaeological moments, the colossal screw-ups, obscure and forgotten places, and the dissonant sounds of a field that is far less assured in process than in product.