Photo Friday and a Few Random Links

It’s the start of the “Frog Days of Summer” when it’s so hot, we all become a bit amphibious to beat the heat. 

The dogs are doing their best to keep cool and hydrated.

The Barge in Summer

and to endure the terror of summer thunderstorms.

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I still don’t have quite enough energy for a full on “Quick Hits and Varia,” but a few links to some late-summer reading never go astray. Do check out Carl Schiffman’s essay posted over at the North Dakota Quarterly blog or reminisce about a summer on Swan’s Island with the late Donald Junkins.

If you have a digital project that you love, do consider nominating it for the AIA Award for Outstanding Work in Digital Archaeology

If you’re looking for something at the intersection of poetry and photography, check out Kyle Cassidy’s Optimized for Likes: Kerning the Human Altered Landscape. It’s $3 and you can get the PDF here.

If you have itchy writing figures, do consider submitting something to this coming fall’s pilgrimCHAT conference. You can read the CFP here.

This is a neat little piece on jazz violinist Billy Bang.

I’m reading Rosemary Joyce’s The Future of Nuclear Waste: What Art and Archaeology Can Tell Us about Securing the World’s Most Hazardous Material. Oxford 2020.

Defining the Archaeology of the Contemporary World

Yesterday afternoon, I received reader reports for my long gestating book on the archaeology of the contemporary American experience. The reports were, perhaps predictably, all over the shop which will make the volume an intriguing (and exciting!) challenge to revise.

You can check out the book here and download the bibliography here.

One of the key critiques is that I need to do more to define what the archaeology of the contemporary world is. In other words, my efforts to do this in my introduction were either not adequate or not particularly convincing (as an old advisor once quipped an argument can be “well made, but ultimately unconvincing. I imagine parallels the idea that a sentence can be grammatical, but ultimately nonsensical). Whatever the next steps with the book, the first thing that I need to do is tighten up my introduction and my definition of the field. Since this will be the first survey of the archaeology of the contemporary from an American perspective, there is reason to think that my definition could have an influence on how field develops.   

The reports themselves reflect a fissure in how scholars think about the archaeology of the contemporary world. Two of the readers recognized my effort to situate this emerging field (or is it a sub-field? This is another problem of definition that needs resolution) amid a wider global interest in the archaeology of the contemporary. This is unsurprising in light of my background as a Mediterranean archaeologists whose first work on the archaeology of the contemporary world happened in Greece and only later took place in an American context. That said, I can definitely understand how different conceptualizations of the “contemporary” as an experienced period of time can shape different approaches and definition of its archaeology.

For Europe, as one reviewer observed, my definition coincides neatly with the post-World War II period and includes the complicated questions of how to treat the legacy of the large-scale post-war rebuilding of the continent. This interest extends to include the detritus of the Cold War, for example, which shaped post-war architectural, cultural, political, and economic sensibilities on the continent. In this context, the rise in American-style consumer culture, for example, reflects the changing economic and political sensibilities of communities that sought to define themselves as much by their loyalty to capitalism as any sense of national citizenship (or in a similar way to Soviet style communism). In a post-colonial context, this created a range of complications and confrontations where wars over markets, resources, and supply chains played out on a global scale and in the name of the hearts and minds of various post-colonial populations.  

Of course, this kind of geopolitical definition of the contemporary is not a universal one.There are contexts where the end of World War Two or the end of the Cold War had little impact on their daily lives. In South Africa, for example, the contemporary world might reflect the end of the Apartheid era. In Cyprus, the Turkish invasion of 1974 represents a significant break. In Hong Kong, the end of British rule might define the contemporary situation in a more significant way than its post-war emergence as one of the four “Tigers of Asia.” 

Of course, the notion of the contemporary need not be defined by the political and economic lives of nation states at all. For example, among immigrant groups the arrival in a new situation or a new country could mark the beginning of the contemporary experience and the emergence of a new way of life (with a new material culture). Elsewhere, in the American “Rust Belt” industrialization (and de-industrialization) mark out profound changes in communities, institutions, and ways of life. While the rapid industrialization of certain areas in the US aligns with the post-war economic boom, its decline does not map as easily onto global geopolitics. On a more recent scale, various generations, Generation-X, Millennials, and Generation-Z, have perceived and experienced the uneven impact of the so-called “great acceleration” in ways that compress the contemporary into an era defined by new technologies, new forms of social organization, and new political, economic, and cultural expectations.

As the global climate change threatens to sweep everything before its path, there are those who see the Anthropocene as the most meaningful measure of contemporary existence. This is the widely debated term that many use to describe the most recent geological epoch which is defined by human transformation of the landscape and the environment on a global scale. On the opposite end of the chronological spectrum, the archaeology of COVID suggests that there might be an even shorter encounter with the contemporary defined by social distancing, new forms of social and economic priorities, and the increased visibility of certain kinds of objects (masks, gloves, ventilators). 

Any definition of the contemporary world, then, most do its best to accommodate the diverse ways in which groups encounter, experience, and mark their present. This kind of stratigraphic thinking is, of course, familiar to archaeologists who regularly navigate chronological boundaries defined broadly through typologies (of objects, architecture, styles) and narrowly through hyper local formation processes that appear significant in a site’s stratigraphy. 

That said, it was clear in many of the comments that in an American context, the contemporary world might be more productively expressed as an archaeology of the recent past. As American historical archaeology tends to define itself (albeit casually) as the archaeology from the start of European colonization to the early 20th century (when the 50-year rule formed an informal endpoint for the field as its development accelerated in the 1970s), there might be real value in defining an archaeology of the recent past as the archaeology of the “short-twentieth century” (sensu Hobsbawm) that began in, say, 1918 and ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many historical archaeologists have come to embrace research into events, experiences, and situations dating to the early- to mid- 20th century. Moreover, in an American context, this work often traces the impact of early and mid-20th century situations into the late-20th and early-21st century. Thus the archaeology of race, e/immigration, industrialization, technology, citizenship, and consumer culture in the contemporary era must be understood in the context of the interwar period during which so many of our social and cultural expectations emergence.

Needless to say, this latter volume, which embraces the long present, is a rather different book from the one that I proposed. As I mull over the two responses to my manuscript, what occurs to me is that I might actually have TWO book projects here. One is a reading of the American experience through the lens of archaeology of the contemporary world as defined (largely) by my European colleagues and the other is an archaeology of the recent past that coincides more neatly with expectations of American historical archaeology. In fact, a clever author could see the former as kind of oblique sequel to the latter which could be chronologically limited to the “short-twentieth century.” The former would likewise situate American archaeology and experiences within a global context and that latter, without being parochial, would consider an experience defined more by the economic, social, and political boundaries of the nation state. 

The idea of splitting this book in two is a genuinely intriguing (and frankly daunting) prospect that I look forward to mulling over. (Plus, there are real economic issues for the press at stake here. Would they see markets for both books? Would there be a more suitable candidate to write a history of the recent past (or the short-twentieth century)?) 

Thing Things Thursday: More Sun Ra, Sheffield, and Rivers

Every day it feel more and more like the end of the summer season and the beginning of fall. It certainly doesn’t help that smoke from the Canadian wildfires has filled the air giving the entire city a bit of autumnal light. As a result, my attention span is being dragging in multiple directions as I try to wrap up end of the summer tasks and gear up for the fall semester. It feels like a good time to do another three things Thursday.

Thing the First

With all this talk about sending billionaires into space, it was a great time to receive the collections of Sun Ra’s poetry recently republished by Chicago gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey. The reprints are done with meticulous attention to detail and manage to reproduce the feeling of the these sometimes casual and often often simple publications.

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For example, the liner notes from Jazz in Silhouette from 1959 appear in their blurry and smudged mimeograph purple creating an intriguing contrast between their futuristic content and their reproduction which situates them in the past. In these poems Sun Ra reminds us that the future is the world of the impossible and that we have to “consider the negative plain of existence” and

The prophets of the past belong to the past
The space prophets of the greater future
Belong to the greater future.   

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It is great to see the poems reproduced in their original form. Two of my favorites appear his most famous book of poetry, The Immeasurable Equation (1972): “The Cosmic Myth,” and “Black Myth” which so clearly embody key aspects of Sun Ra’s worldview. “The Cosmic Myth” starts with the lines “A new name is always a great adventure | A cosmic name is a cosmic word …”

“Black Myth” engages with Ra’s challenging sense of myth and time declaring:

A better destiny I decree
Such tales and tales that are told
Are not my myths
But other myths of Black mythology
Radiate from beyond the
      measured borders of time.

Thing the Second

Like so many people in the world of archaeology, I’m quite distressed by the closing of the archaeology department at the University of Sheffield. Flint Dibble offers a nice summary of the situation in this Twitter thread. As he and many other commentators note, the most challenging aspect of this closure is that this department was among the most important and successful in the English speaking world.

Like many people, I can’t help but feeling that its closure marks a new phase in the transformation of higher education on a global scale. The debate is no long about metrics for success, which Sheffield would appear to achieve without a shadow of the doubt, or the value of hard won intangibles such as prestige and brand recognition, but about something else entirely. The cynic in me makes it easy enough to attribute the closure to a crass power play on the part of the political leadership of the university. The archaeology program at Sheffield may well be a kind of tall poppy  cut down in a rather pure expression of power.  

It is hard to understand how it would be possible to resist gestures such as these. Over the past decade, in the long simmering crisis in higher education, faculty especially in the humanities and arts have worked to construct strategies designed to promote their programs on campus, to boost enrollments, to demonstrate the utility of their programs for the 21st century, and to extend their reach beyond campus.

At the same time, faculty have often critiqued past generations of faculty for not doing enough to anticipate the changing political, economic, and ideological landscape of higher education. This is often done in an oblique way through criticism of ivory tower faculty who were and remain out of touch with reality and incapable of adapting their programs. As frequent are criticisms of university administrators who are depicted as a hostile to the humanities, arts, and social sciences or simply incompetent. While these critiques have remained in the background surrounding the closing of Sheffield’s program, they often raise their heads when the conversations turn to the challenges facing humanities, arts, and social science programs more broadly.  

I can’t escape the feeling that the increasingly arbitrary cuts to programs will reveal the ultimate futility of well-meaning faculty efforts to preserve their programs and perhaps cause us to pull back from many of the least charitable critiques of faculty in the past. Perversely, it push us to ask much harder questions that do not involve sustaining our programs, our jobs, our careers, or our work and instead focus on what we should do when we know that our work will not matter to our institutions and our fields.

Thing the Third     

I’ve been chewing on an abstract that I need to prepare before the end of the month for the 2021 CHAT conference whose topic is movement. As I’ve mentioned before (somewhere on this blog!), I’ve wanted to write about the Grand Forks Greenway and to reflect on the tension between the walls designed to manage the flow and flooding of the Red River of the North and the river’s movement through the landscape, our engagement (and movement alongside the river’s course), and our ability to navigate over and around the walls put in place after the disastrous flood of 1997.

Unlike a traditional conference, the “pilgrim CHAT” will be a month-long festival open to all sort of multi-, trans-, and new media kinds of explorations of the topic of movement. This complicates my abstract all the more as it forces me to think about my topic not just in the sense of academic content, but also as media. I have almost no experience doing this kind of thing, but this project seems like a great opportunity to broaden my horizons a bit and develop a greater appreciation for how our new media world might change scholarly communications. 

Wreading Wednesday

I am pretty sure that Wreading Wednesday isn’t really a thing, but this week, I’m going to make it one. I’ve just heard that I was invited to teach a graduate reading class in the English department here at UND next spring.

My class will be tentative titled “Readings on Things.”

The class will be partly based on a couple of chapters from my book manuscript that explore the growing interest in things in the humanities and social sciences more broadly. I obviously don’t need to put together a syllabus yet, but I thought it would be fun to put together a bit of “back of a napkin” thought about the class.

My initial thoughts are to divide the class by disciplinary approaches. For example, we would read some Bill Brown and Tim Jelfs when considering the role of things in literature (and maybe Jameson and I’d love to bring in some queer theory and am currently reading Kara Keeling and liking it and feel like Maia Kotrosits’s recent book would fit here as well.) I would then spend some time with Danny Miller, Bruno Latour (any excuse to read Aramis again!), and Tim Ingold to get the sense for thing studies in sociology and anthropology. For history and archaeology, I could imagine reading Bjørnar OlsenTimothy LeCainDan Hicks, and González-Ruibal (plus some Rathje!). Then I could look at some of the great work being done in the area of heritage studies on decay, by Caitlin DeSilvey, for example. I might also add some works on media archaeology such as KittlerErnst, and Parikka. Discard studies is becoming a thing as well.

This would offer a pretty conventional survey of thing studies across multiple disciplines. I could supplement it, of course, with some reading maybe Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine, some Philip K. Dick, some DeLillo, some Pynchon, and perhaps some Raymond Carver. I wonder how I might interweave some fiction with my much (much!) firmer grounding in material culture studies without overstepping my expertise. After all, I haven’t even taken a college level class in English language literature. 

I also wonder what I might do to make this class less of the traditional, read-report-discuss style seminar, and more of a dynamic space where we can learn from each other (and our authors!). It seems like the asymmetries in our expertise—with the students knowing more about literature and the ability to read and analyze texts in a sophisticated way and me knowing more about objects and contexts—might open doors to new ways for both the students and myself to think about our worlds. The question then becomes how do we negotiate this? 

Do I create a class that’s a series of exercises where I offer some text and they present some evidence?Do I do some things to draw the students out of their academic and intellectual comfort zone (for example, transmedia comparisons, dancing about architecture?). Do I lean on my colleagues across campus to inject some “real” interdisciplinarity into the class? For example, what if one of our material science faculty came and talked about his or her favorite material, an artist on how metals or clay shape their craft, a historian who has focused on sculptures, and a biologist who focuses on a particular species?

Needless to say I have a good bit of work to do to figure out not only what this class will look like in terms of the reading, but also in terms of the class itself. Stay tuned!

Good Friday, the Epitaphios, and COVID-19

This week is Holy Week for many Orthodox Christians, but like last year, the COVID pandemic has changed some of the basic rituals of Orthodox life. Giorgos Papantoniou and Thanasis Vionis in a very recent article in the journal Ethnoarchaeology titled “Popular Religion and Material Responses to Pandemic: The Christian Cult of the Epitaphios during the COVID-19 Crisis in Greece and Cyprus.

Papantoniou and Vionis document how practices surrounding the Epitaphios ritual changed in Greece and Cyprus during the pandemic. The Epitaphios is an elaborately decorated wooden bier meant to symbolize the tomb of Christ. The decoration of the bier, generally done by women, is a long-standing tradition during Holy Week that precedes a ritual procession of the Epitaphios by the entire community. The procession of the Epitaphios culminates in the Good Friday mass.

(As an aside I have the fondest memories of watching the Epitaphios processions at East in Athens. It felt like it caused the city to pause for a moment and brought various neighborhoods together both to mourn Christ’s crucifixion, but also to start the final crescendo toward the release of Easter.)

Papantoniou and Vionis document the various ways that people adapted the Epitaphios traditions and rituals to accommodate lockdowns and bans on gatherings. For example, some individuals decorated home made biers in their own homes converting a community and public tradition into a private one that could then be shared on social media with a wider community. They also documented how the church transformed the Good Friday procession of the Epitaphios, another event that precipitated a heighten sense of community typically manifest in the bustling collective ritual, into a remote rite where the community engages with the ritual movement of the Epitaphios from a distance or in virtual ways.

The authors suggest that studying the changes that the pandemic brought to the Epitaphios traditions and rituals offers a model for how rituals change during crisis and both reveals certain underlying values that structure the practices and demonstrates how crises can prompt the adaption of rites. While their research has the feeling of being rather preliminary, it offers an intriguing lens through which to think about materiality during the COVID pandemic by considering a ritual with a rather formal structure and practices. It may be that their work is a point of departure, then, for studies of the post-pandemic world that consider the changes that COVID wrought in our everyday lives.

For all my colleagues and friends who observe, have a blessed and restorative Holy Week! 

Final Bit and Bobs and What This Book Is Not

This week, I’m tying up some little bits and bobs throughout my book manuscript with the hope that I can submit it one week from tomorrow! You can read more about this long simmering book project here.

As part of that work, I’ve put together a brief statement on what this book is not. I suppose these kinds of statements are rather generic in contemporary academic writing. They’re efforts to gently guide that hand of readers (reviewers!) away from weakness in a work and toward the idea that I included and excludes some things deliberate in an effort to sculpt the work into a coherent book (or something like that).

In many ways, this section, title “What This Book Is Not” might tell folks more about what the book is than anything else.

At this juncture it is probably important to define what this book does not do. This book will not explore in a sustained way the important work of forensic archaeologists which overlaps with archaeology of the contemporary world in its frequent interest in the recent past, but also has developed a unique set of methods, practices, and problems that relate to its development in a judicial and legal context (e.g. Groen et al. 2015). This book also does not offer a sustained discussion of issues surrounding heritage and heritage management in a contemporary context. While these are important area for understanding how archaeology shapes and reflects contemporary social, cultural, and political concerns, there is a massive body of literature on these topics that often overlaps with archaeology of the contemporary world. For example, the recent volume, titled Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (Harrison et al. 2020) features many of the same scholars who have lent their voices to archaeology of the contemporary world. The scholars share an interest in interrogating the ambiguously defined “future” for whom heritage managers traditionally preserve a community’s natural and cultural heritage. In contrast scholars such as Randal McGuire’s and the Ludlow Collective not only examined lives of the miners and their families involved in the Ludlow strike and massacre, but also engaged contemporary organized labor to commemorate and remember these events. Christopher Matthews (2020), Paul Shackel (Schackel and Little 2014: 85-93), Laurie Wilke (2000; 2001), Krysta Ryzewski (2017), and many others have worked with contemporary and descendant communities to understand, protect, and preserve their shared heritage. This work will appear throughout this book, but since the complexities of contemporary heritage have developed its own vast body of literature, it will not be address here specifically.

Finally, this book will not stay in its lane and remain narrowly focused on the work done by disciplinary archaeologists. Instead, the following chapters will often draw on work by scholars of material culture, geology, media culture, history, art, and literature both to contextualize the interests of archaeologists of the contemporary world and to outline the transdisciplinary space of present and future work. Along those lines, I make reference to larger political and culture trends that stimulated various developments in the archaeology of the contemporary world. For example, the environmental movement of the 1970s inspired research into contemporary discard as much as a growing interest in behavioral archaeology and formation processes. The growing interest in things in archaeology parallels critiques of material culture in public rhetoric, in literature, and in other academic disciplines. Needless to say, that our growing awareness of human-caused climate change informs archaeology in a transdisciplinary way and supports a critical engagement with concepts like the Anthropocene. The parallel development of environmental history likewise contributes to how we understand the archaeology of landscapes, cities, and the countryside in the post-war period. As the final chapter of this volume shows, the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder, and the deadly and disruptive riot in Washington, DC are already exerting a catalyzing influence over not only archaeology, but many other disciplines and academic and activist approaches to contemporary culture. The abundant cross-pollination in archaeology of the contemporary world has shaped the tendency of this book to reach easily across fields to create a sense for not only the past and present range of disciplinary practices but also its future.

Archaeology of the Contemporary American Experience: An (almost) Final Bibliography

I’m almost done my second draft of my book manuscript and as part of that work, I have an almost final bibliography for my book. Readers of this blog know that my book is on the archaeology of contemporary American culture and you can check out the first drafts of most of the book’s chapters here.

The book has a pretty significant bibliography as one might expect from this kind of survey. While there are better, or at least more focused, bibliographies available. I’d recommend the bibliography of Alfredo González-Ruibal’s An Archaeology of the Contemporary Era (2019) or even Rodney Harrison and Esther Breithoff’s recent article-length review in the 2017 Annual Review of Anthropology 46(1): 203-221.

In any event, I think that my bibliography is a bit different from theirs and might be of interest to a graduate student or someone just dipping their toes in the field. At the same time, it is very much a works cited.

You can download my bibliography here in all its 36 page glory!

Afterword: COVID, George Floyd Protests, and the Capitol Riots

Today’s blog post is a bit later than usual because it contains the final draft of a chapter for my book on the Archaeology of the Contemporary American Experience

These are very, very rough drafts. The citations are not entirely complete and they’re about 1000 words shorter than they’ll be when they’re folded together to make a coherent(-ish) book. This also includes working on transitions between the chapters and filling out the references. 

You can read a very rough outline of my book proposal here. The book is about 60% survey and 40% a cultural and methodological study of the archaeology of the contemporary American experience. As a result, a significant part of the book will tend toward the descriptive. My hope is that the 40% of the book where I try to do some cultural history isn’t so far off the mark (or so mundane) to be uninteresting or, worse still, produce an archaeology that is merely illustrating well-known history from texts.  

Here are the first drafts of all ten chapters with the latest in bold:

Chapter 0: Introduction

Chapter 1: The Alamogordo Atari Excavation

Chapter 2: The Archaeology of Garbage

Chapter 3: Things, Materiality, and Agency

Chapter 4: Media Archaeology, Archaeogaming, and Digital Archaeology

Chapter 5: Borders, Migrants, and the Homeless

Chapter 6: Camps, Campus, and Control

Chapter 7: Industrial Ruins and the City

Chapter 8: Extractive Industry, Housing, and Climate Change in the Bakken

Afterword: COVID, George Floyd Protests, and the Capitol Riots

As always, if you have observations, constructive criticism, or just unmitigated hatred of everything that I’m doing here, please do let me know! 

Recent Research on Mid Century Grand Forks

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll have encountered some of my recent work on the mid-century architecture and landscape of Grand Forks, North Dakota. That said, I’m giving a paper today at the North Dakota CLG conference which presents the work that I’ve done with my wife, Susan Caraher, on mid-century Grand Forks alongside some significant recent work done by the folks in Bismarck.  

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you’re probably pretty familiar with what I’m going to say in this paper, but I’ve added some snazzy powerpoint slides and I think the perspective offered in this paper is rather more polished than in other iterations.

If you’re interested in hearing me give this paper in the flesh, the conference is open to the public and registration is free. You can register for today’s session here.

Or you can read the paper that I’ll deliver here: Recent Research on Mid-Century Grand Forks.

Beginnings and Endings

Over spring break, I took time away from high priority writing to recharge my batteries a bit, but much like a college student who puts $10 of gas in their car and counts the days to the next paycheck, I feel like I’ve probably have a put a bit too little into the tank for the amount I need to drive, but we’ll see!!

This morning, I’ve been putting the final touches on a chapter that I really like in my long simmering book project. It starts with a discussion of ruin porn (that is photographs of ruined industrial and urban landscapes) and considers how the ambiguity of urban spaces and ruins created places ideally suited both for protests and for archaeology’s distinctive ability to explore diverse historical and contemporary contexts. To be honest, parts of the chapter are a mess, but I feel like it’s a GOOD mess. You can read an earlier draft of the chapter here (PDF).

Here’s the chapter’s lede (for my use of ledes, go here):

The orderly arrangement of workforce housing camps offers one pole in our experience of the Bakken oil patch. Their tidy and controlled appearance reflected the aspirations for the orderly extraction of oil from sometimes unruly and reticent Bakken formation. As the archaeology of camps and campuses have shown in other contexts, the contrast between the evident order of the spaces and their use over time both reveals the persistence of certain orderly aspects of these sites. The arrange of concrete slabs in Slab City, for example, organizes the arrangement of the contemporary squatter community and, the Nevada Peace Camp developed in a more organized way, in part, owing to its proximity to the very military installation that the camp sought to protest. At the same time, the outward order of campus and camp did more to obscure than the eliminate the more dynamic, adaptive, and subversive signs of regular use, as the consistent appearance of alcohol bottles in excavations of dry campuses reveals.

The next chapter considers contemporary industrial landscapes and their ruins. From our vantage point in the Bakken oil patch of Western North Dakota, we can recognize how the character of the 21st-century oil boom depended upon the distinctive nature of the Middle Bakken oil deposits, the technologies of drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and the half-century of extractive industrial development in the region. While this book will unpack the complexities of the contemporary Bakken boom in the next chapter, this chapter will trace how landscapes defined by extraction, industrial production, and urbanism present distinctive opportunities to critique the expectations of capitalism and modern aspirations for production and consumption. Scenes of protest set against the overstated claims of economic development as well as the haunting specters of abandonment and decay trace the uneven rewards of capitalism and the blurry boundaries between the human and natural worlds.  

Here’s the conclusion:

This sprawling chapter extends from the gritty representations of ruin porn to the rhizomatic networks of flows that pool and eddy around protest sites and coalesce in the material form of the contemporary city. The complexities of the contemporary city and industrial ruins provide a backdrop for protests against racial, economic, and environmental injustice precisely because these places resist easy categorization and remain open for transgressive and transformational forms of expression. The emphasis on flows that are constitutive of urban landscapes parallels our recognition that things, whether media objects, discarded consumer goods, or newly acquired devices, represent the momentary coalescing of global networks with their wide range of social, political, and economic contexts. The ability of archaeology to unpack these diverse contexts allows us to understand the implications of ruins as spaces that cultivate transgressive acts, understand the limits of our ontological categories of human and nature, and reflect on foreclosed future and the contingency of capital. The final chapter of this book will finally reach the Bakken oil patch where in the second decade of the 21st century many keys flows constituent of American society came together in a dynamic and precarious archaeological landscape.