Gender, Sexuality, and Queer Theory at SAA 2017

The themes I discussed in my recent series of blog posts came to life on Thursday during the #SAA2017 conference in a series of symposia, workshops, forums, and meetings about issues of gender, sexuality, and intersectionality.  The day started with the symposium “Constructing Archaeology: Sex/Gender and Sexuality Research from the Periphery to the Center”, organized by Kirsten Vacca.  The variety of paper presentations, ranging from gender in the Viking Age, queerphobia in Christianity, to incorporating intersectionality into college curricula, examined the manner in which issues of gender and sexuality may be made central to the archaeological project.  Discussant Chelsea Blackmore offered suggestions that all archaeologists who examine gender should take to heart.  First, we need to interrogate rather than assume our understanding of intersectionality.  Intersectionality is not simply the entwining together of several different identities, but relations of power.  Second, we need more prehistoric archaeologists theorizing intersectionality, and applying it to their work.  Third, gender archaeologists need to rethink how they are practicing their work.  Are we taking intersectionality seriously? What new questions should we be asking? Is staying in our own little boxes keeping gender archaeology on the periphery?  Finally, we must link our work through social action, that is, to use archaeological research to aid in the solutions to modern problems.

The day continued with the annual Queer Archaeology Interest Group meeting.  QAIG is quickly growing, both in its membership and in its actions.  QAIG provides a space for queer archaeologists to express their opinions, address institutional problems, and to be politically active in their communities.  It also provides an opportunity for socializing, networking, and mentoring for like-minded archaeologists.  QAIG will be planning a social event Friday night – follow @Queerarch on Twitter for more information!  Being a member of any one of the many SAA interest groups opens doors for undergraduate and graduate students; not only can you meet others with similar scholarly interests, but you can also join the leadership of these groups – a perfect networking opportunity! The afternoon also included a special panel in tribute to Joan Gero.  Leading feminist archaeologists, including Margaret Conkey and Alison Wylie, gave beautiful talks on Gero’s groundbreaking and important influences on the field of archaeology.

The evening concluded with the Women in Archaeology interest group meeting, and a special forum on Sexual Assault and Harassment in Archaeology.

It was inspiring and exciting to be a part of so many fantastic feminist and queer archaeologists today who illustrated the utility of examining gender and sexuality in archaeology, and who continue to push the field of archaeology forward.

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