Call for Papers: Archaeology and Social Justice

I was pretty excited to see the theme of this year’s Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology and the Ancient World workshop: archaeology and social justice. Here’s a link to the call for papers or, if you’re too lazy to click on a link, you can read it below!

It would be very cool to see something at this conference on the archaeology of care or even the recent discussion about the value of punk archaeology as an ethical critique. 

So check out the call for papers below: 

State of the Field 2018: Archaeology and Social Justice

Friday, March 2 – Saturday, March 3, 2018
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Brown University’s Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World will host a workshop called State of the Field 2018: Archaeology and Social Justice on March 2-3, 2018. The workshop will be the culmination of two years of discussion on this theme, and is also intended to raise new issues, ask new questions, and encourage ongoing dialogue. Our gathering builds on a tradition of “State of the Field” workshops hosted by the Joukowsky Institute to reflect upon trends in archaeological work, each year focusing our discussion on issues impacting an area of particular interest to our faculty and students. While previous versions have dealt with a country or region of archaeological significance, this year’s event will focus on archaeology’s relationship to ongoing movements for social justice.

Within the context of archaeology, we conceive of social justice as pertaining to issues of privilege and opportunity that affect the makeup of scholars in the field, efforts among archaeologists to engage with the public and with broader social and political discussions, and the degree to which archaeological scholarship and pedagogy intersect with or impact these issues. It also refers to the asymmetries of power and structural inequalities in society at large. This choice of topic has been inspired by recent global social and political concerns, responses from universities and academia that seek to address issues of representation and access, and, most importantly, grassroots movements for social justice.

This workshop thus seeks to engage primarily with the role of archaeology in contemporary social justice movements, while insisting that discussions of diversity in the past can inform experience in the present. We welcome papers that explore the relationship between archaeology and the present political climate, with the intention of addressing the challenges currently facing the field of archaeology and the academy more broadly. We also seek to engage in conversations about the biases and structural problems that make archaeology more accessible to some than to others, in order to help the discipline reach a broader and more inclusive public.

The workshop will include four sessions, each addressing issues of the relationship of archaeology to ongoing struggles for social justice and/or the role of archaeology in those struggles. Rather than predefining the content of these sessions, we intend to shape them with contributions from this call for papers; we wish to offer an open space for discussion of the following, and other, relevant issues:

· The materiality and temporality of current social issues
· Disciplinary decolonization
· Archaeology’s role in discussions of “diversity and inclusion”
· Identity and inequality in the past and present
· Structural and practical access to archaeology and the academy
· Activism and engagement within archaeology
· Archaeology in/of social justice movements
· Archaeology’s relationship to white nationalism
· Archaeology in moments of crisis

To submit a proposal for a paper of approximately 20 minutes, please send an abstract of 350 words or less to Joukowsky_Institute@brown.edu by October 1, 2017.

For questions about this CFP, or about the conference, please see our conference website or email Joukowsky_Institute@brown.edu.

Some Punk Archaeology

I was pretty excited to read Lorna-Jane Richardson’s recent critique of punk archaeology in World Archaeology. Not only was it a thoughtful engagement with the ideas at the core of punk archaeology, but with viability and sustainability of punk archaeology as an approach.

She and I probably disagree more than we agree on whether a punk approach to archaeology has any benefit, but ultimately we recognize similar problems within the discipline of archaeology (and society) and articulate – ultimately – similar solutions. She argued that the most salient aspects of punk archaeology already exist in various forms of participatory practice in archaeology and rebranding them under the term “punk archaeology” amounts to little more than a “navel-gazing need for sub-cultural self-identification.” 

There are few places where I sensed that we might have been talking past each other a bit, and as a very preliminary response to her article, I offer the following observations:

1. Punk Archaeology in Context. One thing that didn’t come through in her response to punk archaeology was that whatever academic or theoretical formulations existed for punk archaeology, the project had a very personal element to it. The participants – Andrew Reinhard, Kostis Kourelis and the various other contributors to the volume – had thought about the overlap of archaeological work and punk music. In this sense, the project was, indeed, solipcistic (at worst) and personal (at best). Maybe we were thinking about archaeology wrong, but it still was how were were thinking about it.

Richardson also seems to have overlooked that many of the key participants in punk archaeology worked in Mediterranean archaeology which, as a rule, occupies a more straight-laced and conservative place in World Archaeology. While participatory practice has occurred in Mediterranean archaeology (see, for example, some of Yannis Hamilakis’s work), it is hardly part of the dominant discourse or method. In fact, some practices that are widely accepted on the global stage, like intensive pedestrian survey and even historical archaeology (Kourelis is a Byzantinist; Caraher a survey archaeologist), have only in the 21st century become part of the mainstream of Mediterranean archaeology (which isn’t to say that there weren’t many significant intensive survey projects or a healthy Byzantine archaeology in the Mediterranean). As a result, our need for “sub cultural identification” was, indeed, “naval gazing,” but also the result of a disciplinary culture that tended to marginalize certain methods, periods, and practices. This coincidence with our interest in punk rock created the basis for our exploration of “punk archaeology.” Whatever the larger methodological and “untheorized” foundations that our association with punk offered, it was, at the end of the day, a reflection of our personal and disciplinary experiences.    

2. Punk, Slow, and Craft. I am skeptical of her claim that “punk archaeology” places “the agenda, content and practice of participatory and collaborative projects in the hands of the non-professionals” and views DIY practices as part of an “an outright rejection of the structures of archaeological authority and knowledge gatekeeping.” While Richardson was clearly concerned with potential impact of this approach on heritage archaeology in the U.K. and professional practice, I’d like to imagine a punk archaeology that does not see the professional/non-professional dichotomy as the primary nexus in which DIY practices occur.

I like to think that I developed this aspect of punk archaeology a bit more thoroughly in my exploration of craft and “slow archaeology.” Whatever the flaws in my thinking about slow practices in archaeology (and people have been quick to point them out), I think archaeological practice even on the professional level is a mixture of archaeological methods incubated within a disciplinary context and tightly controlled as standards, and practices that are not distinctly archaeological but nevertheless shape the kind of knowledge we produce. For example, stratigraphic excavation is a professional, disciplinary method, and punk archaeology is not calling for a disruptive, DIY, experimental approach to this foundational method (just as punk rock music, with some exceptions, maintained the basic structures of songs). On the other hand, punk archaeology is interested in challenging and playing with certain strands of archaeological practice like our growing obsession with 3D models and remote sensing, and injecting the spirit of low-fi and craft into those approaches to documenting the past. These strands of archaeological practice tend to be advanced in name of efficiency, accuracy, precision, and technology in a professional context that is both relatively uncritical and reflective of priorities that are not universal within the discipline. In this context, DIY approaches challenge the technological solutionism within professional practices. In some ways, these DIY (or to use Ivan Illich’s useful term: more convivial) practices draw not only unprofessional traditions, but pre-professional traditions within archaeology and remind us that no matter how much we “streamline workflows” a part of archaeology will “never be modern.” This space between professional standards, innovation, pre-professional practices, and the pressures of modernity (and super modernity) leave plenty of room for DIY and other ad hoc practices that connect professional archaeology with both the public and its own preprofessional past.       

3. Punk Publishing. I was a bit bothered by Richardson’s characterization of punk publishing efforts. While her critiques of the web are fair, and I might even understand her fears of archiving, I will strongly contend that digital publishing has transformed the way in which knowledge is communicated and whether this rises to the level of democratization or not, I’m not entirely sure, but the internet, for all of its liabilities, has transformed the world.

At the same time, there are standards for publishing on the web, archaeologists recognize the potential for ephemera to shape the discipline, and archival practices have emerged over the last decade to ensure that digital artifacts, like the book Punk Archaeology, are preserved. This is an old complaint that seems to equate short-term, spontaneous, and low-budget punk archaeology projects with naive approaches to producing useful archaeological analysis. 

Shoestring budget projects have a growing body of resources available to archive their digital and non-digital material. In fact, I’d argue that shoe-string budget projects like my Digital Press at the University of North Dakota (annual budget of about $0) or the North Dakota Man Camp Project (<$10,000) have played a key role in documenting ephemeral and marginal practices that tend to fall through the cracks of traditional archaeology. In other words, digital tools allow for the documentation and preservation of our ephemeral recent past in ways that analogue tools do not. Punk archaeology embraces this opportunity and the challenges associated with critically engaging these new ways of working that are aware of both the growing reach of “large tech companies” and their role in making our digital heritage legible and accessible. Readers of Richardson’s article will likely find the free download of Punk Archaeology via a Google search or at the Internet Archive, but Richardson’s article is behind a paywall controlled by a large publishing house.

4. Performing Punk Digitally. Richardson’s most troubling critique is that punk archaeology and its participatory ethos is a slippery slope toward reduced funding to archaeological projects and the exploitation of unpaid or inexperienced labor. This is a legitimate concern, but not one unique to punk archaeology, I’d suggest. First, as I have argued above, archaeology continues to have an apprenticeship system where students and junior scholars work with more senior scholars to acquire field skills and regional knowledge. This is less than idea, but it has been part of the discipline (and academia) for nearly a century. Academic credit, publications, and field knowledge cannot and do not pay the rent, keep lights on, or put food on the table, and this is a problem that archaeology – not just punk archaeology – must acknowledge. Second, the problem of unpaid work extend to include the messy world of academic publishing where scholars give uncompensated hours and days of their time in peer review to journals published by for-profit publishers.

For its part, punk archaeology, including the book that coined the phrase, served as a critique of academic practices by being published by and for academics and circulated for free. While I would agree that punk archaeology remains under theorized, I rankle a bit at the assertion that “The punk movement does not seem to have properly thought through the potential political consequences and ethics of unpaid work…” I think punk archaeology has engaged some of those issues and this is demonstrated in the very book that Richardson cited in her article and the work of institutions like The Digital Press to promote archaeological work in a collaborative and collective way.

While punk archaeology has not offered a definitive critique of the exploitative practices present in archaeology and academia more generally, punk practice within archaeology is hardly consistent with what Richardson’s statement: “So, while these projects may in fact be self-reliant and self-funding to an extent, and may also be the exact type of grassroots projects that ‘non-profits, charity organizations, and large foundations don’t want to be bothered with’ (Reinhard, pers. comm..), they are not advancing the understanding of archaeological knowledge within communities or providing open access to information.”

5. Punk Archaeology in Context II. While Richardson and I might differ in how we approach the problem of archaeology in the age of austerity, I think the great value of this article is as a reflection on the complexities facing any approach to archaeology or the humanities in a time of diminished funding.

Punk archaeology offers on approach to the problem through encouraging collaboration and collective action among archaeologists, by supporting and developing new models of archaeological publication (through projects like The Digital Press), by offering critiques of the relationship between archaeological practice and technology (through “slow archaeology”), and by recognizing the role of archaeological work in engaging pressing issues in our communities. The approach that punk archaeology has adopted does not solve the fundamental problem of austerity or the nefarious impact of neoliberal ideologies on academia, of course. I tend to see these pressures as being more than just the disinterested forces present in a fundamentally neutral economic regime, but rather a system designed, at least in part, to undermine values incubated in the humanities and archaeology. Punk archaeology, then, represents a kind of resistance to this larger project rather than a way to accommodate its impact.

Richardson’s willingness to dismiss punk archaeology as a largely uncritical, austerity-influenced, “navel-gazing need for sub-cultural self-identification” is a bummer because I suspect that we’re actually on the same side.

Convergence: Punk, Slow, and Care in a Digital World

Every now and then I start to worry that my interests are diverging and running away in every direction and leaving me adrift. With budget cuts, possible changing in our teaching/research balance, a shift away from graduate education, and many of my field archaeology projects entire their final seasons, I find myself like many “mid-career” faculty bereft of morale, motivation, and, frankly, direction. So I get to thinking about convergence.

Every now and then, I read something or turn an idea around enough in my creaking, void-filled, mind that I get what other people have often described as an “idea.” This weekend, I had a glimpse of how several tracks in my academic and intellectual development might actually be converging around a theme (or two maybe?) that a few blog posts this weekend helped me to recognize more fully.

I’m going to try to trace these out this morning and to make sense of what my various projects are trying to do and say.

Over the last few years, my colleagues and I have had some entertaining, and I hope useful, conversations centered on three concepts in archaeological research:

1. Punk Archaeology
2. Slow Archaeology
3. Archaeology of Care

I can’t take credit, really, for any of these, but I probably am as responsible as anyone for coining terms to describe them, and promoting the use of these terms.

Punk Archaeology celebrates the performative, DIY, and improvised aspects of archaeological field work and thinking. It has tended to focus a bit more on the archaeology of the contemporary world because this is where archaeological methods and practices have tend to break down when confronted with challenges such as modern abundance leading archaeologists to innovate on the fly, our work is less bound by the formal limits of the site and more publicly accessible, and contemporary observers are more willing to offer dissonant, alternative, and conflicting perspectives. As a result, punk archaeology – at its best – defamiliarized the familiar in everyday life (much like punk takes the basic structure of pop song and makes it something else) and familiarizes the unfamiliar in archaeological practice by putting it on display. In short, it can turn archaeology inside out.

Slow Archaeology is a critique of the role of technology in archaeological practice. I’ve argued that the Taylorist drive for efficiency has produced field practices that tend to fragment both how we describe material culture but also our experiences. At its most perverse, field work is reduced to “data collection” and digital tools are celebrated as ways to make the harvesting of “raw data” more efficient. There is no doubt that field work should be efficient and that technology will improve not only what we collect from the field, but also how we collect archaeological information. Slow archaeology, however, calls for us to maintain a space in archaeological field practice for analysis and interpretation and to be patient with these processes. Moving forward, I’d like to see slow archaeology celebrate integrative practices in archaeological field work that both bring together our fragmented techniques in the field and the information that these techniques produce.

Archaeology of Care. The archaeology of care is a term coined by my colleague Richard Rothaus and, like slow and punk archaeology, it offers a critical reflection on the practice and performance of archaeology. It stemmed from the observation that people who we encountered in the Bakken were genuinely moved by our archaeological and archaeological interest in their world and lives. While neither Richard nor I conceived of our project as a gesture to the people (or objects) that we studied, it became pretty obvious that archaeological work became a medium through which shared understanding of the past and the present are formed. For us at least, the archaeology of care was de-theorized and reflected our very practical experiences doing archaeology of and in the contemporary world.

It has taken me a while to recognize that these three moves in my archaeological thinking have focused on a number of shared themes centered largely on our practices in the field: (1) a focus on archaeology as performance and experience, (2) a tendency to recognize these experiences a bringing together people, data, and objects, and (3) a preference for DIY and an aversion to “technological solutionism” in its various forms.

These ideas have started to come together with another couple of “projects” that I’ve been slowly working on over the last few years. As readers of this blog know, I’ve invested a good bit of time and energy into The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. This emerged directly from my interest in punk archaeology (which became the first book from the press). It started as an experiment in DIY publishing and has slowly expanded into a project designed to the traditional fragmentation of the publishing process that separates the authors from the publishers. At my little press, we create an environment where authors, editors, and publishers work together to produce books at a lower cost than traditional commercial publishing, but with opportunities for more experimentation and control for the authors.

I’m pretty upfront with my authors that I am not a conventional publisher. As my more critical colleagues point out, my books tend to be a bit rough around the edges, my distribution channels remain a bit uncertain, and everything is essentially experimental. But for my authors and editors, this seems to work. If anything, I have more than enough books to keep my enterprise afloat, to hold my interest, and to keep me feeling that this is a meaningful extension of my approach to archaeology and archaeological knowledge production.

What prompted this sudden bout of introspection was a little article titled “Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump” by Audrey Waters. Go read it (and comment if you want; there is the start of a little Hypothes.is comment thread). To summarize a complex argument, trends in Ed-Tech data collection are troubling for a number of reasons. First, Waters critiques the basic philosophy that if we collect enough data on our students we can customize our educational practices to produce particular outcomes. Most thoughtful educators realize that this is not how teaching or learning works just as most thoughtful archaeologists do not think that intensified scrutiny and technologies in how we collect “all of the datas” will produce better archaeological knowledge more efficiently. (Do check out Dimitri Nakassis’s refinement of my critiques of data at his blog especially here and here and here.)

At the same time, we are lured by the temptation of easy digital data collection especially in online courses or in courses with substantial online components. Universities have developed sophisticated data collection schemes as their infrastructure has become digital and student interactions with almost all services is mediated by tools that collect data to produce increasingly comprehensive digital profiles of students. Even with the protections offered by FERPA, universities have vast quantities of data on students that can be leveraged internally to encourage practices that “better” serve students. Students are consumers and the university has indulged in all the conceits of online consumer culture. In place of a culture of care grounded in complex experiences of teaching and learning, the university as an institution has fragmented students into bundles and clusters of data that can be arranged to anticipate and serve student and administrative expectations. This has particularly toxic potential as calls to “reinvent education” often look to technologies to create the appearance of doing more with less, while obscuring the reality that less almost always means less in education.

What is more troubling for Waters is that the calls to “reinvent education” or to “innovate” almost always rest on the assumption that current practices are flawed. The temptation is to identify the problems with education through scrutiny of “big data” rather than attention to small, daily practices. With the lure of big fixes residing in big data issues of security and privacy abound. What is more terrifying still is that for public universities, this data could easily fall into the hands of politically motivated leaders either on campus or at the state or local levels who could use students and faculty data for purposes that run counter to many of our values as educators, scholars, and public servants. Waters evokes the always chilling specter of Nazi data collection as an example for how the state can mine “big data” for nefarious purposes.

To be clear, I don’t see slow archaeology, punk archaeology, the archaeology of care, or The Digital Press as a bulwark against Nazism or as explicitly political statements, but I would like to think that the common aspects of these projects represent a kind of resistance to some of the more troubling trends in academic practices and higher education these days. Calling for greater scrutiny of practice in a time of big data, promoting DIY among students and colleagues, and demonstrating how integration, and care, rather than fragmentation and “analysis” can produce meaningful and significant results. 

Punk Archaeology at Three

A couple of friends have reminded me this week that we held the first ever punk archaeology conference three years ago. I was honored that close friends contributed to the event: Kostis Kourelis, Richard Rothaus, Andrew Reinhard, Bret Weber, Tim PaschMike Wittgraf, Brett Ommen, and Joel Jonientz.  

Reinhard punk archaeology

Listen to the papers here. Listen to the music here. Or download the book here. Or, if you want, buy the book here.

PunkArchaeologyHandbill

Andrew Reinhard has worked hard to bring punk archaeology to a wider audience. Other folks have taken time to think deeply about punk archaeology and took it from being this ill-formed empty vessel and transformed it into something meaningful

Two Articles: One on Punk Archaeology and One on Data

As I gear up for the start of the semester, the Archaeological Institute of America annual meeting, and catching up on some overdue or soon to be overdue projects, I’m going to lean on some other fine folks for some content on the ole blog.

First, go and check out Colleen Morgan’s fine study of Punk Archaeology in Aqueologia Publica 5 (2015): “Punk, DIY, and Anarchy in Archaeological Thought.” She unpacks the potential scope, history, and significance of punk archaeology by situating it within larger academic and social movements committed to social justice, DIY practice, and anarchy. She not only established the history of punk’s place within archaeology and academia, but provided some loose guidance for its future (as is only fitting). The only thing I would have added to the essay is that the book, Punk Archaeology, that came out of our 2013 conference was the inaugural volume for the Digital Press which took the notion of the zine and applied it to academic publishing. The book is both about punk, and punk in its publication. The co-editors collaborated throughout the publication process and participated in every aspect of the work from lay-out to copy editing, proof reading, and distribution. While the institutional affiliation of the The Digital Press probably distances it from being genuinely anarchic, an approach to publishing that intentionally challenges conventional organization of academic production and emphasizes the process as well as the product. 

You should also go and check out Andrew Bevan’s very recent piece in Antiquity 89 (2015), “The Data Deluge”. In this short, but direct article, Bevan thinks critically about the quantity of data archaeological projects are producing and the limited tool kit that we currently deploy to understand that data. He urges archaeology as a discipline to both develop better tools for understanding archaeological data, and to think more critically about the data that we are producing. 

Punk Archaeology in the Media and a Trip to Duluth

Just a short post today as I’m headed to Duluth for the weekend to give a couple of talks at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. 

Here is the info on those talks.

Today, I’m giving an updated version of this talk, which will draw heavily on a soon to be submitted article:

Reconstructing Communities on Cyprus from Broken Pots and Ruined Churches

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about punk archaeology:

The A B C s of Punk Archaeology Three Examples of Punk Practice in Archaeology

If you still can’t get enough, check out this article on our work in the Bakken on Vice Motherboard. It appeared, briefly, above the fold:

Motherboard Home Motherboard

 

Of course, I’ll be keeping my eye out for a dog with a rabid tooth while I’m there. 

The Present State of my Punk Archaeology

It’s only been a year since The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota published Punk Archaeology. Since that time I haven’t given it much thought. In fact, I’ve relied on the relentless enthusiasm and energy of Andrew Reinhard to carry the punk archaeology touch forward toward new frontiers.

For some reason, I offered to give a lecture on punk archaeology in a couple of weeks at the University of Minnesota – Duluth in conjunction with a showing of the Atari: Game Over documentary. Fortunately, I’ve only been asked to give a 15 or 20 minute talk and to keep it informal, breezy, and accessible. This is good because I’m a bit at a loss for what to say.

I titled the talk: “The A, B, Cs of Punk Archaeology” and figured I’d talk about some of my work in the C(orinthia), the B(akken), and with the A(tari) project. So I have case studies, but I feel like I need to frame these case studies in a more meaningful and substantial way. 

In the eponymous edited volume, I noted that Punk Archaeology did five things: (1) It was reflective (and reflexive), (2) embraced the DIY, (3) expressed a commitment to place, (4) embraced destruction as a creative process, and (5) was spontaneous.  As I look back, though, I wonder how many of these things could be said for most archaeology. What makes these things worthy of a distinct definition?

In addition to the five dubious characteristics of punk archaeology, I got to think about three additional aspects of punk. First, I am becoming increasingly interested in thinking about archaeology as socially responsible practice. Our work in the Bakken has convinced me that the tools developed through archaeology can collect data that informs policy as well as documents our encounter with the contemporary world. Related to this is the interest of punk archaeology in the contemporary world. Punk rock merged traditional music forms (pop music, folk music, even the venerable waltz) with contemporary instruments, concerns, and observations. Archaeology can do the same. Finally, I think punk archaeology has a particular concern for archaeological practice that extends from the edge of the trench or the survey unit to the publication process. Since the publication of Punk Archaeology, I’ve begun to think more about how the systems we use to collect, analyze, and publish archaeological evidence (and arguments) and wonder whether we can be more critical of these practices and be more open to experimentation.

To return to my presentation for Duluth, I think I’ll start with a brief overview of the history of punk archaeology, “from Kourelis and Caraher to Reinhard,” with a brief stop in the Corinthia and my work with David Pettegrew (a proto-punk archaeologist if there ever was one) at the 20th century site of Lakka Skoutara. Here we confronted issues like the abundance of contemporary material, a site where rapid and constant changes occurred, and the presence of living memories at the site. These all required that we adapt our archaeological training to address the challenges of this site. 

Without a doubt, my experiences at Lakka Skoutara in the Corinthia shaped my work on temporary housing in the Bakken where we were similarly confronted with a contemporary, dynamic, and hyper-abundant landscape. In the Bakken I also came to recognize that the practice of archaeology mattered to the communities and people who we were working to document. People in the Bakken boom recognized that it was a historical moment for the region, and saw in our efforts to understand and document it, affirmation that people cared about their experiences. This motivated us to work toward publishing the results of our work in the Bakken in free and open access (as much as this is possible) forms. 

Finally, there’s Atari. Not only do our efforts represent an effort to deal with hyper-abundance of the modern world, but also the explicitly performative character of punk archaeological work. We were simultaneously props for the films directors and researchers attempting to glean as much archaeological information as possible from the experience. This dual role of archaeologist and performer makes the performative element of our discipline explicit and situates our work both as archaeology of the contemporary world and within the contemporary world.

Now to transform this into a breezy and entertaining PowerPointer…  

Punk Archaeology Project Update

It’s been just over 200 days since The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota published their inaugural volume: Punk Archaeology

Since that time, the book has been cited twice. Once in Koji Mizoguchi, “A Future of Archaeology,” Antiquity 89 (2015), p. 20: “”Moreover, we should not be too bothered by the existence of ‘established’ media and the media hierarchy. High- quality e-books (e.g. Caraher et al. 2014)…”

And once by Sara Perry in her contribution to the Alison Wylie and Robert Chapman, Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice. (Routledge 2015): “Crafting Knowledge with (Digital) Visual Media in Archaeology”.

The book has been downloaded well over 1000 times (and likely about twice that) via my blog and viewed over 5000 times on Scribd. The blog post dedicated to the book has been viewed 3,800 times. The book is available for purchase on Amazon, but we’ve only sold around 50 copies

According to Shawn Graham and Ed Summers, the link for Punk Archaeology was the second most tweeted link from this past week’s Society for American Archaeology meeting, and this has accounted for about 5% of the book’s total downloads. 

In constrast, the second book from the press, Visions of Substance: 3D Imaging in Mediterranean Archaeology. (2015) has about 100 downloads over the past 100 days and 1200 views on Scrbd. The webpage has been viewed about 270 times. My hope is that this book becomes a bit more popular in the fall when it could be a useful, accessible, (and free) addition to a Mediterranean archaeology class. 

Overall, I’m pleased with the performance of the first two books from The Digital Press! If you haven’t checked either book out, please do!

Some Thoughts on Punkademia

Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly making my way through Zack Furness’s edited volume Punkademics (2012), which brings together a wide range of academic voices on the influences of punk rock on the “ivory tower.” As a colleague of mine quipped, I like that this book exists. In fact, I wish I had known about while putting together Punk Archaeology; Furness would have been a great contribution to our work.

The book consists of a wide range of essays that, generally, interweave the history of punk with the personal stories from professional and academic life. The contributions are generally readable and a pair of interviews with Alan O’Connor, who studied the punk scene in Toronto, and Milo Aukerman, a research biologist with DuPont who is a member of the Descendents, added to the immediacy of the volume. 

I won’t do a full review, but I do have a few quick, day-before-Thanksgiving, observations:

1. Politics over Aesthetics. One of the key points of this volume is that the punk movement was more than just aesthetic posturing by bored, image-conscious youth (as postulated by, say, Dick Hebdige’s 1979 classic, Subculture: The Meaning of Style), but a legitimate form of political expression. Furness and company paid particular attention to the late 1970s punk scene in the U.K. where bands like Crass brought together left-wing, anarchist sensibilities in their lyrics and approach to performance and the music industry. The devoted less attention to, say, the American version of punk rock which developed in close connection with the New York art scene of the late 1960s and had close ties to, say, Andy Warhol’s Factory. American punk particularly as it developed in New York City had a much greater focus on aesthetic challenges to the increasingly banal world of American consumer culture. This was a critique of consumer culture, suburbia, or even the absurdity of everyday life, but it was less overtly political. 

2. Gender, Race, Orientation, and Community. Furness’s contributors considered the tensions that existed between the attitudes within the punk scene toward women, minorities, and gay and queer participants. These attitudes vacillated between the open and accommodating to the overtly hostile. Even a casual listener to the punk rock music can appreciate the misogynistic sentiments expressed in punk lyrics and the use of insensitive (at best) and intolerant language in the sometimes tense relations between groups and bands. While in some ways, the anarchic and left-leaning politics of punk created a safe place for minorities of all kinds, the aggressive tone of the music and adversarial posturing could sometimes create a hostile environment as extreme political and social rhetoric masked puerile oppositional showboating. 

I was particularly struck by the critique of gender in punk, and it made me very aware that the first, published iteration Punk Archaeology was very much a boys’ club (with the exception of Colleen Morgan, the Patti Smith of the Punk Archaeology movement, Kris Groberg, and Heather Gruber). This was all the more troubling because Mediterranean Archaeology has tended to be an (old) boys’ club in many ways and remains almost exclusively the domain of white folks.

3. Punk Pedagogy. Several authors dealt explicitly with the influence of punk on their classrooms, and it was fun to see some of my approaches to teaching considered to be punk pedagogy. Two particular things stand out. First, I share with punk pedagogy a willingness to cede power to my students, within limits, and to attempt to create a space for radical creativity in my classroom. I think that some of Furness’s authors would see the punk in my experiments in the Scale-Up classroom which drew heavily on the thinking of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Moreover, I was happy to see that punk teachers shared my deep skepticism of the industrialized academy, but none appeared interested in exploring what a return of a craft approach to higher education might look like (at least in those terms). 

4. DIY. The essays advocate do-it-yourself practices that sought to intentionally undermine our dependence on mass produced consumer goods and practices. Of course, this has become increasingly difficult in an academic setting as the creeping spread of regulations, standards, assessment practices, and corporatized expectations has encroached upon our ability to operate outside of institutionally controlled practices. It was interesting to me that few of the articles spoke to any resistance to DIY practices from institutional concerns. For example, there was considerable outcry surrounding the development of a DIY book scanner, and the increasingly stringent copyright laws which we’re told protect our “intellectual property” often make it more difficult to produce meaningful scholarship or to circulate our works. DIY practices offer a way to subvert, endrun, and defy these policies and practices, but also carry increasing risk as our intellectual and creative autonomy is seen as a threat to those who want to monetize it.

(Some day, I will write about my efforts to start a press at the University of North Dakota.)

5. Punk as Failure. One of the most redeeming things about this book is author’s openness regarding the successes and failures of their efforts to … (continued below)

Interruption:

Ok. I really want to continue this post, but when we woke up this morning our dog looked like this:

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His eyes usually look like this:

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So now I’m going to take him to the vet. I’ll finish this post when I get back.

Continuation:

… integrate a punk ethos into their academic lives. The stories of failed efforts to create a punk infused classroom or to integrate their intellectual and political commitments to the shrill rhetoric of punk performance. The willingness to the contributors to admit and scrutinize the failures of punk to accommodate the academic life and professional world was heartening to me as I look back on my own struggles to bring my most ambitious and personal projects to satisfactory completion. The process of punk is perhaps more important than the product. Or, as my colleague quipped: I’m like that this book exists. 

Have a very punk rock Thanksgiving.

Atari Auction Update

A few days ago, I promised an update to the ongoing Ebay auction of Atari games excavated from the Alamogordo landfill last spring.

Check out Andrew Reinhard’s and Raiford Guin’s very recent blog posts on this event to get a better sense of what’s going on. You can read mine too, I mean, if you haven’t already.

So far, the highest bigs are on ET games in their original boxes which top out at close to $650. You can check out the auction here. One thing my fellow Atari archaeologists have been pondering is whether there’s a good way to scrape bid history from Ebay into a spreadsheet. Can anyone help with this?

Please don’t bid against me!

I’ve also been amazed to witness the conflation of punk archaeology and our participation in the landfill excavation in Alamogordo. The highlight of this has to be the appearance of our lovely visages at Vigamus video game museum in Rome. 

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Stay tuned for more on this!