Friday Varia and Quick Hits

I’m sitting by the fire drinking coffee as a wet and heavy snow falls over North Dakotaland. Winter is here! 

Fortunately, It’s well over 30 so I won’t have to shovel, but I do worry about the trees and the folks out driving on the beet campaign. Wet and sloppy roads make a long night of driving challenging.

For the rest of us, it feels like a good day to stay indoors, and, if possible, focus on some reading and writing.

Here are some quick hits and varia for the first days of winter:

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First Snow

Sometimes the first snow happens at night and that makes everything a bit challenging to photograph and post.

In keeping with tradition, here’s a photo of the first snow this year.

I’ve posted a photo of the first snow (or what I considered the first snow…) pretty regularly since 2007. Here they are: 2017 (October 26)2016 (November 22)2015 (Nov. 5), 2014 (Nov. 8),  2013 (Oct. 20), 2012 (Oct. 4), 2011 (Nov. 10), 2010 (Nov. 21), 2008 (Oct. 28), and in 2007 (Sept. 11).

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Three Things Thursday

It’s Thursday and the week is racing toward its inevitable conclusion. I have three quick things on my mind as I struggle to get focused enough to push through teaching and a writing day tomorrow before a weekend full of layout for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

There’s a lot going on in the world, and most of it seems bad (or frankly terrifying). From the Kavanaugh hearings to Presidential alert buzzing my phone yesterday, it feel like all I can do is bury myself in either esoteric nonsense or projects that I feel like I can control. These introduce enough clutter to my brain to keep me from becoming too preoccupied, demoralized, or panicked. Maybe this kind of escapism, when recognized at scale, is part of the problem with society; maybe, for some of us, it’s the only way to stay sane. I worry that my own inability to deal effectively with what’s going on in society today is symptomatic of the problem.   

That being said, I will keep doing even if it looks more and more like I’m fiddling while Rome burns…

1. NDQ Volume 85. I am excited that the first volume of North Dakota Quarterly under my term as “Editor-in-Chief” has gone off to the copy editor. This will be a interstitial volume between NDQ publishing as an independent publisher and as an independent “little magazine” published by the University of Nebraska Press (UNP) (this is an open secret still and there hasn’t been an official announcement yet). In other words, NDQ is out of the publishing business, but still in the content producing business. This is good for us financially and in terms of workload. University of Nebraska Press has production capacity and economies of scale in terms of printing and distribution. It means that I can focus my attention on working with our genre editors on content and with Nebraska to expand our readership, contributors, and subscribers. 

The publication date for this, if we can get it into UNP’s hands by November 1, will be early 2019, which isn’t too far from the 2018 date for the volume.  

2. Digital Ephemera and the Archive. One of the interesting things that has come out of the conversation with University of Nebraska Press is the digital future for NDQ. As a public humanities and literary journal (as if these two things were really different), I always have felt that it was more than ephemera. As such, I pushed for the digital archive of NDQ to be made available via the HathiTrust and had always seen both paper and digital distribution and archiving to be part of the journal’s future. In fact, I had imagined that digital subscriptions, particularly for our institutional subscribers, might be more appealing and easier to manage. In effect, I had imagined that the digital form of NDQ would be the archival format and the paper format would be more ephemeral.

This, of course, represents a pretty significant inversion of how I’ve seen publishing. It used to be that paper versions of books and journals were for the archive because the material nature of paper made it relatively easy to preserve when compared to the changing nature of bits and bytes. Today, however, paper appears more and more as a novelty or for the sake of nostalgia or for reasons completely separate from its traditional place as an archival medium. People discuss the feeling of a book, its scent, and even the way in which paper helps us engage the text in a less distracted way.

The digital form is the archive, which I suppose makes some sense, as most of our publications today are born digital.  

3. Bakken and The Digital Press. One of the little things that have vexed me about Amazon.com (among the many, but this was a little one), is that it never connected my two books on the Bakken through it’s “Frequently bought together” feature. 

It was pleasant surprise this week, then, when I noticed that The Bakken and The Bakken Goes Boom were finally connected. It is now possible to buy both The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape (2017) and The Bakken Goes Boom (2016) together for less then $30. That’s less than ONE DOLLAR a day or less than your favorite coffee at Starbucks.

I was sort of bummed to hear that The Bakken wasn’t selling very well (or it was selling well, but in very low numbers). I think of it as a kind of accessible experiment in understanding complex, industrial landscapes. Even if you aren’t super interested in the Bakken, maybe you’ll be interested in my approach:

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Materiality and Time

I’ve been pretty intrigued by the little group of articles published in the most recent Journal of Contemporary Archaeology on materiality and time. As anyone who has read recent literature on materiality (in its various forms) recognizes that materials dictate and in real ways construct how we engage and experience time. This is particularly true in archaeology where the materiality of strata, of artifacts, and of architecture constitute the stuff of chronology in an excavation. 

My interest in time derives in part from my interest in the issue of contemporaneity in archaeology and how the concept of contemporaneity in the present and with the present shapes our notion of an archaeology of the contemporary world. For someone who is much more at home doing the empirical grunt work, the theoretical and abstract nature of time and contemporaneity is giving me fits, but these articles work to anchor the complicated concept of the present much more in materiality are helping me navigate the complicated terrain of time.

As I think through my introduction to my book on the archaeology of contemporary American culture, I want to make sure that I speak both to social (and environmental) issues on a global scale as well as distinctively American engagements with their archaeological present. I was particularly interested in the distinctive temporalities made visible in Astrida Neimanis’s article on the disposal of chemical weapons after WWII in the Gotland Deep. The article emphasized different regimes of time that defined the permanence of this discard strategy, the enduring character of the sea, and the contemporary risk of chemical weapons both to humans and to other creatures who share that space. The Gotland deep is part of what might be seen as a fairly “new” sea in the geological history of the region. At the same time, the perceived permanence of the sea made it a suitable dumping place for unused mustard gas. The delay between the dumping of the gas and our understanding of its impact paralleled the delay between exposure to mustard gas and the physical signs of contamination on the human body. The materiality of time defines the intervals at which we experience the world. Neimanis introduced me – once again – to the concept of queer time, which I honestly do not understand beyond it being a general critique of linear time. That being said, I’ve added Elizabeth’s Freeman’s Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (2010) to my reading list.

Elana Resnick’s article on the use of glass among Roma in the modern Bulgaria is a lovely short case study for how the persistence of certain materials shape their utility even in the disposable culture of the contemporary European Union. The Roma use glass jars to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables for the winter while at the same time recyclers stockpile un-recycled glass until it becomes economically viable to sort and recycle it into useful objects. The continued value of glass as use objects (and it relatively low value for recyclers) locates it in a perpetual contemporary state where it can serve to slow time for the preservation of seasonal vegetable over the winter months.

In contrast, Gay Hawkins’ work on plastic, unpacks the tension between its persistence and its disposability. Her article makes clear that plastic is particularly fascinating it the way in which it’s material plasticity has limited it functional dynamism in contemporary use. On the one hand, plastic lasts essentially for ever, and, on the other, it’s plasticity ensures that plastic objects have rather narrow functions which makes it eminently disposable. While her understanding of time as a key concern for analytical philosophy if as intimidating as it is overwhelming, I did follow her bibliography to François Hartog’s Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time (2015) and added it to my reading growing reading list. 

More on this, when I have time, of course.

Homeless Heritage

Rachael Kiddey’s Homeless Heritage: Collaborative Social Archaeology as Therapeutic Practice (2017) is among the best books that I’ve read over the last few years. Kiddey describes the work of her and her colleagues, some of whom were homeless, in documenting the material culture of homelessness in York and Bristol. It also traces Kiddey’s own progress through her Ph.D. and her discovery and engagement with homelessness and homeless people as she worked with them to document their skips, routes, and lives through various cities and present the results of her research. The book is less about the empirical results of her research, although she does present some of those, and more about how how Kiddey and her homeless colleagues created a social archaeology project that both generated useful data on homeless practice and gave a sense of meaning to the daily lives these individuals. As the subtitle suggests, the project had a therapeutic element to it for both the homeless participants and, less visibly in the book, but certainly present, for the author herself.

The book was inspiring and incredibly positive despite the potentially heartrending topic. More than that, it embodies the kind of “archaeology of care” that Richard Rothaus, Bret Weber, and I began to imagine over the course of the North Dakota Man Camp Project. Kiddey’s work is better and more involved (and involving), but we shared her understanding that conducting archaeology communicated the significance of a situation to the homeless or to the residents of a North Dakota man camp. Here are some observations about the book (which you really should just buy and read!):

1. Heritage. The idea that the homeless produce heritage is an important because it embodies a fundamental tension within 21st century material culture. First, the era of precarity creates ephemeral landscapes that emerge and dissipate in response to various contingencies as diverse as police activity, seasonal changes, and the availability of food or shelter. The skips and squats that various homeless participants frequented often were already abandoned or access was restricted by the time that they documented them with the homeless heritage team.

The other side of this tension is the ubiquity of stuff in the modern landscape. So precarity and contingency compresses the duration over which a site remains active, the abundance of modern material produces a more robust assemblage of stuff than would otherwise be expected. The routes and sites described by Kiddey and her colleagues were filled with stuff ranging from bedding, to broken glass, beer cans, and pallets that show signs of past use and an effort to make the place a little more comfortable. 

Charting these places as heritage, then, becomes less a traditional archaeological intervention which produces a site with clearly delineated boundaries and interpretative signs, and more a documented landscape that alerts the passer-by to the potential of homeless heritage and instructs them on what this might look like and how to engage with the evidence. 

2. An Outline of Social Archaeology in Practice. The strength of the book is Kiddey’s narrative of her engagement with the homeless individuals with whom she collaborated on the project. She described how she created an inclusive environment for all the participants on the project which allowed them to share their expertise and experience without the need for an excessive hierarchy or a tidy divide between the archaeologists and the volunteers. 

This organization extended from the first phases of field work to excavation, public engagement, and scholarly publication of their research. Kiddey hints that the practical challenges of breaking down the barriers between the “researcher” and the “researched” by admitting that some of her colleagues continued to struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, struggled with low self-esteem, and had personal entanglements that made consistent participation with fieldwork a challenge, but she also detailed how inclusive practice recognized these challenges and accepted them. Here you can see the faint shadow of real practices on any archaeological project where team members regularly accommodate the different abilities of participants in a project. No one has ever changed a stratigraphic level based on my observations in the field even when I was “project director.”

While the book is clearly the work of a single author, who tellingly has both a first and a last name, the work of her colleagues is in the very near background. I was fascinated by this ambiguity. On the one hand, her homeless colleagues clearly made this work possible (and, if I understand correctly, she dedicated the book to one of them) and participated as fully as possible in the undertaking including giving a paper at Cambridge and co-curating the public exhibits on homeless heritage. On the other hand, by the end of the book, I was hoping that their participation in the project would allow Kiddey to raise the veil a bit and re-craft them from participants to authors. For example, none of them ever get a last name, which at first reinforced the authenticity of the street voices protected as it were by monikers and nicknames, but on the other hand, as the participants took increased ownership of the academic space of writing, curating, and presenting their experiences, I desperately wanted them to break through the “fourth wall” and become academic co-authors (at least in presentation) closing the loop in their collective participation on the project. Perhaps this desire reflects my own experiences on projects where student “volunteers” who return and contribute to a project over time invariably appear as co-authors on papers and with more formally recognized academic identities. 

This isn’t a criticism, of course. If anything, it reveals my own normalizing of academic conventions which ignores the realities of folks living on the street and the challenges that they face. For example, I thought about suggesting that Kiddey should have authored this book as “Marmite” which was her name among the homeless folks that she encountered in the book, but I also recognized that this may be inauthentic. On the other hand, that one of her colleagues, Smiler, abandoned that name for his birth name “Andrew” suggests that the use of proper names and nicknames in this book does map, to some extent, onto the participants sense of self and identity. Perhaps, then, the authenticity of the book comes from the voices of Jane, Punk Paul, Dan, and others whose single names represent their identities and authority as homeless individuals as much as from Rachael Kiddey, whose full name (so we’re led to imagine) represents her (literal) authority as author of the book.

Managing identities, authority, and knowledge is hard.   

3. Narrating to Inspire. Finally, this book is well written and engaging. I read it more or less in a single sitting gripped as much by the book’s narrative arc as the compelling characters Kiddey presents. Without giving too much away, the book has a brilliant climax that involves getting lost, rain, and a daring drive through a hedgerow (which offers as brilliant a critique of enclosure and homelessness as I’ve ever read!). 

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this book was crafted to bring the reader along on a challenging journey rather than to present, in an empirical or analytically transparent way, data from an archaeological project or even a template for a similar project. As someone who has played a bit more explicitly with genre-hopping, I can only admire Kiddey’s subtlety and creativity in using a range of narrative strategies (stories within stories, dialogue, academic prose, and a broader narrative arc) to carry some of the interpretative burden of the book. In many ways, her forms a more understated parallel to Laurie Wilkie’s The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi (2010) which likewise intermingles academic prose with other narrative forms to produce a compelling study of a university fraternity in the first half of the 20th century. As I discovered with my little effort, writing in this way is difficult, but when it works, like it does in this book, the results are inspiring and compelling.

Read this book. 

 

 

 

Sacred Cyprus and GIS

Over the weekend, I read Giorgos Papantoniou’s and Niki Kyriakou’s article in the most recent AJA, “Sacred Landscapes and the Territoriality of Iron Age Cypriot Polities: The Applicability of GIS.” Not only was it great to read something on Cyprus in the AJA, but it was cool to read something on the neighborhood of Kition where we worked for the last 15 years. Papantoniou and Kyriakou’s project focused on the western extent of  Kition’s control in the Iron Age whereas our project studied a site, Pyla-Koutsopetria and Pyla-Vigla, to the east of the city.

Papantoniou and Kyriakou studied legacy data from the small Iron Age sanctuary site of Vavla-Kapsalaes which was identified by the Vasilikos Valley Project. They consider whether this site is a border sanctuary between Kition and Amathous further west and whether it marked the edges of Kition’s or Amathous’s territorial, political, and economic control. By drawing upon data produced by a rather robust GIS, they were able both to propose a method for assessing such situations and to propose that Vavla-Kapsalaes (and several other nearby sites) would have likely been under Amathousian control for most of the Iron Age. In this way, the article contributes to the decade old debates concerning the spatial organization of the city-kingdoms of Iron Age Cyprus and serves as a useful reminder that Rupp’s famous application of Thiessen polygons to propose political boundaries between the various polities on the island was provision and suggestive rather than definitive. 

This conclusions, however, only scratches the surface of this complex article. Papantoniou and Kyriakou develop a dynamic model to assess the relationship between the sanctuary at Vavla-Kapsalaes and the Iron Age political and economic centers at Kition, Amathous, and Idalion. The model integrated at a micro-regional and regional level stable resources and features of the landscape from the presence of arable land, copper rich pillow lavas, river valleys, passable routes, and visibility.The authors set these more stable features of the landscape against the artifacts from Vavla-Kapsalaes, the iconography present at the sanctuary, the ebb and flow of Iron Age settlement in the Vasilikos valley, and the history of the larger urban centers nearby. The results is a highly nuanced and complex analysis that remains suggestive and dynamic rather than stable and structural. This kind of analysis, of course, is particular appropriate for borderlands and liminal regions which would have drifted over time between central power centers and also served as a locus for territorialization of these larger polities.

I’ve often wondered whether a more robust analysis of the regional and micro-regional characteristics of the neighborhood of Pyla-Vigla would produce similarly complex and nuanced results. The site of Vigla almost certainly possessed an Iron Age sanctuary which likely stood on a major route between the kingdoms of Salamis and Kition. The late Iron Age fortification of the area, its prominent coastal position, and its rapid expansion in the Hellenistic and Roman period suggests that the micro-region of Pyla-Koutsopetria and Pyla-Vigla transitioned from a zone of religious and military activity in the Iron Age to an area of settlement after the Hellenistic and Roman rulers of the island suppressed the political autonomy (and rivalry) of the city kingdoms. 

What is the most intriguing aspect of Papantoniou’s and Kyriakou’s study is its willingness to consider the limits of a territorial model for understanding Iron Age polities on Cyprus in general. While no one denies that the city kingdoms were territorial states, the margins of their political, economic, religion, and even cultural control need not be articulated in purely territorial terms. In the conclusion they note that human affinities and identities, including spiritual and emotional attachments to particular places and practices, do more to shape the nature of territorial control than neatly defined borders.

This conclusion has a particularly salient modern significance as in the modern era we’ve witnessed rigid political borders defining the rights of individuals in ways that often defy, subvert, or attempt to redefine their cultural, religious, or social connections to the wider world. As the authors show, despite the tendency for GIS to produce rigid and linear marks on maps, the integration of GIS technologies and historical models allow us to trace territorialization as a continuous process in the past. This offer a useful reminder that border have never been impermeable marks on the landscape, but continuously negotiated and dynamic spaces.

Friday Quick Hits and Varia

Fall is starting to give way to early winter here in North Dakotaland with a brief moment of something frozen falling from the sky yesterday and temperatures that dip into the upper 20s predicted for tonight. It’s been a long, warm summer, but I think most of us survived to hibernate yet another year.

It’s also an intriguing weekend for sports with the big Ohio State – Penn State game on Saturday night. The NASCAR guys trying their luck at the “roval” in Charlotte and the Formula 1 kids are in Russia. For Carson Wentz related reasons, the Eagles will be on TV here in Grand Forks. It should be an entertaining way to put the last couple week’s of the Phillies season behind me and get warmed up for the start of Australia’s summer cricket season on October 7.

Despite the packed schedule, I’m leaving a little time for short list of quick hits and varia:

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The Digital Press: New Books, Social Media, and Downloads

This fall looks to be an exciting one for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

First, we have two new titles that should appear in the coming weeks: The extended digital version of Hugh Goldring, Nicole Burton, and Patrick McCurdy’s The Beast: Making a Living on a Dying Planet which was originally published by Ad Astra Comix (and you can buy the print version here). There’s a great interview with the authors and creators of this work in the LA Review of Books. You can find the link on the book’s page at The Digital Press.

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We’re also very close to having Eric Burin’s edited, Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent and Patriotism in 21st Century America. We’ve published some previews to this book already, and there’s a great interview with Eric on the book’s page at The Digital Press.  

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What makes these two books even more exciting is that we hope that they’ll push The Digital Press over the 5000 download mark (and this doesn’t count the download that were registered from other platforms like Archive.org or copied and shared by our readers) We hope that the release of The Beast and Protesting on Bended Knee will help us achieve this goal!

Finally, and most importantly, The Digital Press has always used social media to keep our readers updated on our latest releases. We don’t ask for emails or anything like that (although we do have an informal back-channel email update when a new book comes out) and we certainly don’t keep any records of who downloads or buys our books. It would be great if you could follow us on Twitter (@DigitalPressUND) or on Facebook

Three Thing Wednesday

It the time of the week (and frankly, semester) where the best I can do is muster three quick thoughts for the ole bloggeroo.

1. Inspiration. In my historical methods class yesterday, we read Michelet and discussed historical writing that sought to convey the emotional power to inspire readers and create the powerful emotional bonds that often define nationalism. My class was singularly unimpressed with Michelet’s project and declared him biased, unprofessional, and (in classic North Dakota style) arrogant. (Reader’s note: In North Dakota, arrogance is a blanket term to describe anyone who does anything in a way that deviates from fairly narrow norms. The assumption is that personal motivations and a sense of individual superiority are the only possible reason to be different. Standing out is the same as standing above and is a moral flaw.)  

This got me thinking about whether I do enough as a teacher (and, here, I’m thinking about UND in particular) to inspire our students. We do well to instill within our students a kind of a sense of confidence in the organization of the university and the curriculum. Students dutifully fulfill requirements, advance through majors, and achieve credentials. In fact, the confidence in the structured experience of credentialing is sufficient that many programs are concocting certificates, minors, and, there’s even talk of “badges” that indicate an individual has fulfilled the requirements for a particular program. The more of these credentials that exist, the more they structure how a student engages with a curriculum and forms expectations of performance and achievement. In such an environment, there is little room for the kind of individual or personal experiences evoked by Michelet, in part, because such experiences fit awkwardly within a curriculum that emphasizes the achievement of certain credentials that have explicit and often quantifiable benchmarks. In this context, experiences like self discovery, inspiration, and, even just chance, are, at best, epiphenomenal to the accomplishment of a common goal, and, at worst, a distraction or complicating factor that requires streamlining. 

In other words, as higher education becomes more formalized, structured, and quantifiable, it also leaves less room for inspiration, contingency, and inspiration. To paraphrase a colleague of mine in music, this song achieves its intended goals because every note is where I learned to put it in class. I need to do more to challenge this view of education in my students. 

2. Open Access. I had a nice chat with a colleague the other day about open access publishing in archaeology. She made the point that many graduate students or early-career academics can’t afford the time (or the risk) to do what I’ve done and start an open access press. In fact, many of them can’t even necessarily afford to publish in open access journals or series because many of these journals rank lower than their limited access counterparts and universities have come to rely more and more on the reputation of journals (some of which are from commercial publishers) to vouch for the quality of academic work. These are understandable and real problems for open access scholarship.

There are, however, some solutions that do not involve taking a risk by publishing in a new, untested, or less well-established, open access publication. Cite open access publications in your work. One of the key metrics for establishing the quality of a journal or publisher is, for better or for worse, citation counts in other quality publications. There are plenty of high quality open access publications that contribute to a wide range of fields. If you want to promote open access publishing, be sure to include these in your footnotes, citations, and bibliographies!  

3. Extended Intelligence. I need to get back to revising the ramshackle paper that I pre-circulated prior to the EAA meeting. It was not terrible, but it had – as the kids say – a lot going on. I would like to develop a bit more fully the sections on “logistics,” “assemblages,” and the archaeological “supply chain.”  In particular, I’d like to tie it a bit more closely to the concept of transhumanism and a transhuman archaeology. 

Yesterday, I stumbled across some of Joichi Ito’s work on extended intelligence and think that it offers an appealing hook for understanding how networked intelligence leverages the rhetoric (and technology) of logistics to transform and expand the very concept of thinking, knowing, and even in some cases feeling and experiencing (check out this rather extensive bibliography of the work of the MIT Affective Computing group). I’m not sure how much of this will make it into the final draft of the paper, but Ito’s reading of Norbert Wiener’s Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1954). As quoted by Ito, Wiener opined:

Those who uphold the idea of progress as an ethical principle regard this unlimited and quasi-spontaneous process of change as a Good Thing, and as the basis on which they guarantee to future generations a Heaven on Earth. It is possible to believe in progress as a fact without believing in progress as an ethical principle; but in the catechism of many Americans, the one goes with the other.”

 

 

The Dog Park at the End of the Universe

This is a follow up post on something that I wrote a few years ago. I’ve been thinking about the space of Lincoln Park especially after reading Shannon Lee Dawdy’s Patina (2016) and thinking about David Haeselin’s edited volume Haunted by Waters (2017). It’s also a chapter in my fictional book of essays on life in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

I run in a place called Lincoln Park in Grand Forks, North Dakota. My usual run loops down through the frisbee golf course and follows a path that runs along the Red River of the North, and then does a loop on some of the park roads before returning to the riverside path. The scenery is pleasant and the route is uncrowded. 

This route also takes me by the dog park at the end of the universe. It is a fenced-off acre of the park where dogs can run and be free and do dog stuff. It is also at the end of time. 

Lincoln Park is built atop what used to be the thriving Lincoln Drive neighborhood in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The flood of 1997 destroyed the houses of Lincoln Drive and the Army Corp raised whatever was left to install a new series of more substantial flood walls on the land side of the neighborhood. Today the area is Lincoln Park. Most of the roads of the neighborhood are covered with grass today, but even the most casual stroll through the park makes their routes obvious. Depressions marking the backfilled basements of the destroyed homes flank these routes. Some of the curbs and surface of Omega Avenue remain visible, though.  

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As an archaeologists, I’m intently aware that time is a particularly useful linear construct for ordering events. It is part of what makes us human, I suspect. As with any linear construct, it has a beginning and an end. Time is also a distinctly local phenomenon. In some places, time appears to move very slowly (say, during a boring lecture on campus) and in other places it races along with reckless abandon (say, during my runs when the more I try to go fast, the faster time slips away). The dog park marks the end of the Lincoln Park universe.

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In fact, the very presence of dogs amid the ruins of this neighborhood gives the space a funerary cast. As Homer tells us in Book 1 of the Iliad, Achilles’ anger left the bodies of heroes to be consumed by dogs and birds and consigned their souls to Hades in the underworld.

The underworld is set off from the world of the living by the river Styx. On the one side of the river is the space of time and on the other, the timeless afterlife. I’ve never followed the Red River of the North but I suspect it goes to somewhere timeless (maybe Canada, but no one knows for sure). The flood walls keep the timeless river at bay, but also opens a gash along its banks where time erodes so slowly that it stops.

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Lincoln Park evokes the J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World where rising sea levels drag humanity back to primordial time. Jeff VanderMeer’s overgrown and abandoned world from the Southern Reach Trilogy likewise frustrates human time by allowing nature to assert its dominance over a marshy, riverine coast. 

There are some signs, of course, that time refused to let go without a struggle in Lincoln Park. Every now and then a chunk of concrete pushes up through the grass and filled foundations draw surface into their hollows. When storms fell trees planted along the now-buried roads, the other trees appear to stand just a bit taller and more defiant in response. They seem to challenge nature in the same way that the neatly ordered grid of homes standing on streets just on the other side of the wall does. Cherry Street, Oak Street, Reeves Drive, Belmont Drive do their best to remind us of the past, of time, and of the future, but the now buried and once-inundated Maple Street, Omega Street, and Lincoln Drive present a powerful counter argument.

Lincoln Park and the dog park at the end of the universe are useful to have nearby (even through my dogs can’t go to the dog park any more. The little Greek dog can’t stop starting arguments that my larger yellow dog feels compelled to finish). It reminds us that the river doesn’t care about our notions of time and that soon enough our entire world will be food for dogs and birds.