Queer Archaeology: Present and Future

Well, here we are – the final entry into my series on queer archaeology. I hope that in the previous three posts I have given the archaeological community some things to consider – how to incorporate queer theory in their work, how to queer field and lab work, and how to communicate queer and other politically sensitive archaeologies to the public. These posts were only intended to generate thoughts and provide critiques to get the ideas flowing; I encourage anyone wanting more to peruse the ever growing body of queer literature! In order to wrap up this series, the remainder of this post will explore the state of queer archaeology today, and where queer archaeology may be heading in the future. To my mind, queer archaeology is in a transitional period in its intellectual development. It is no longer in its infancy, for there is a robust set of theoretical and methodological works that set forth its goals and aims, and how those goals and aims are to be achieved. Yet, it is also not a fully “matured” discipline in  the sense that it is still rapidly developing, changing, and growing. It is exactly this transitional state that makes queer [Read More]

Queer Archaeology and the Public

In last week’s post I discussed the necessity of taking queer archaeology into the field and laboratory because these are where archaeology “happens”. However, there is a significant portion of the archaeological process that I ignored in that post – engaging with the public. All archaeology should be public archaeology to some degree; if we are not making an impact on people outside of the academy, then at best archaeology is a hobby, and at worst it’s irrelevant. Thus, if queer archaeology is to make the impact that I am sure that it can, it must be willing and able to engage with its various publics. This is no easy task. “Queer”, like many of our other favorite academic terms such as “feminism” and “Marxism” are rife with social and political tension.  In addition, queer archaeologists are people too. In attempting to take their work to the public, they are exposing themselves to the kinds of reactions queer individuals experience in other social situations. These two issues – how do queer archaeologists disseminate their work to non-archaeologists and how do queer archaeologists protect themselves – will be my concern for this post. Taking Queer Archaeology Outside of the Academy Queer archaeologists [Read More]

Queering Archaeological Practice

In the close of my last post, I mentioned that queer archaeology is something that we do. Queer is a verb more so than a noun or an adjective; queering is meaningful action – and it is only by doing queer archaeology that we can make significant impact on the present. However, it is the moment when queer stops being an adjective to describe our theory, and starts being a verb that describes our actions, that things are often stalled. It is relatively simple to sit in our offices and wax philosophical about performativity, intersectionality, inclusivity – but its is much more challenging to put queer into practice. In this post, I hope to provide some resources and suggestions about how to queer our work. I have divided these into three steps – Teaching & Training, Field & Laboratory Practices, and Dissemination. I do not intend this to be the “be all, end all”, and I welcome any additional suggestions or comments. I also would like to note that, as will hopefully soon be clear, I am not advocating for a complete overhaul of archaeological and scientific methods and procedure.  In fact, most of the methodologies archaeologists employ produce important, verifiable [Read More]

Queer Theory and Archaeology

Last October, my fellow graduate student Trish Markert discussed the sociopolitics of gender within archaeology and its potential impact on our contemporary sociopolitical landscape. In her post, she briefly addressed the manner in which queer archaeologists gives our field the ability to challenge normative assumptions – and she promised a more thorough discussion of queer theory to come. Well, that time is finally here! Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing several facets of queer theory’s incorporation into archaeology, and its power to radically change our perception of the past and present. Why Should I Care About Queer Archaeology? Queer archaeologies are especially important in these uncertain times. The Trump administration is legitimizing the alt-right movement in an effort to void past social victories and impose a new normative upon us. Those who live outside of this “new” normative — which is really an old normative rearing its ugly head — are discriminated and legislated against. Originating in social amnesia, and enforced in the law, what is “good” and what is “right” becomes naturalized – we start to believe people have always been heterosexual and cisgender, men have always had political authority, women have always belonged in the [Read More]

The Archaeology of Vulnerability: Hurricane Katrina and archaeology in the midst of disaster

As Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast in late August of 2005, 1.2 million people across the Southeastern United States received evacuation orders. Most fled the storm, but many stayed behind; close to 2000 people lost their lives as a result, the vast majority of those fatalities occurring in New Orleans.  Katrina is recognized as the largest disaster ever to occur in the United States, causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damages and disrupting wide swathes of the Southeast; many communities have still not recovered to their pre-Katrina conditions. One of the reasons I chose to center my thesis on archaeology and disaster recovery after hurricanes is the immensity of Katrina’s impact; the effects of the eight-day storm have been widespread and slow to resolve. The hurricane alone is not responsible for the damage and destruction, however. Without people a hurricane is just a windy storm that lashes the coastline; once people are placed in the path of danger, and given those people’s position in relation to any number of societal statuses – their race, education, and income, for example – the hurricane becomes the precipitating factor in a disaster which, particularly in New Orleans, had been [Read More]

Stewards of Memory: Terrorism and Public Archaeology

Public archaeology is deeply connected to issues of heritage. Our National Register of Historic Places, our archaeological reviews, our love of old things are all tied back to how physical manifestations of memory shape our experience and identity. We use museums, memorials, and mansions to construct a story of our shared past, to idealize and sometimes idolize our history. Many of the moments we memorialize are surrounded with death and devastation – the National Battlegrounds of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, for instance, or monuments to the victims of the RMS Titanic or the Donner Party. When people die, our urge is to preserve their memory, to mark the loss somehow. This urge is intensified when lots of people die, or when the circumstances of their deaths are unexpected or violent. To rise into national consciousness, the tragedy must appear to be out of the control of the victims, further heightening the loss of unfulfilled potential. FEMA is tasked with providing support and assistance, including the work of archaeologists, to survivors – people who have gone through what is likely to be the worst moments of their lives, who have lots loved ones, homes, and belonging and who are experiencing [Read More]

Rupture and Rebirth: California’s Earthquakes

Earthquakes aren’t just a hazard in California, they’re events that Shannon Lee Dawdy (2016) describes as ruptures in everyday life, creating schisms in time, space and community, and with a revelatory power to uncover things hidden in the earth and in the habitus of living. Rupturing events can take many forms, but I will here be focusing on those caused by disasters which are of large scale or wide impact. National disasters typically fit both of those descriptors, and the Stafford Act, the legislation which created and authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides that the President may provide federal assistance in response to any natural catastrophe, fire, flood, or explosion. “Natural catastrophes” here include “any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought”; it is important to note that fire, flood and explosion may be of any cause, including human action – as we will see in a future post. National disasters, when viewed through Dawdy’s lens as a rupture, create a situation in which the values, priorities and vulnerabilities of a community are stripped to the bone. Earthquakes are a present danger, a premonition of an apocalyptic future, [Read More]

Public Archaeology and Disaster

Trish Markert and guest blogger Kevin Gibbons have done an excellent job exploring the physical and political implications of climate change and Michele Turner has given us a look at the American legal system and archaeology. With thanks to them for their insights, I’d like to spend a little time delving into one of the issues at the heart of archaeology and climate change: disasters. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise when I say that archaeologists have long been interested in disasters (Pompeii, anyone?). What many do find unexpected is that archaeology is also practiced during disasters. Any time that a community is threatened by earthquake, fire or hurricanes, their collective past – their heritage – is also threatened. Disaster management is about more than simply providing clean drinking water and a place to shelter from a storm. Some of the most important work is done when survivors return to the home passed down to them by their grandparents, or when the church where their children were baptized reopens its doors. Communities are created through a sense of shared belonging – whether this is through growing up in the same neighborhood, following the same football club, or developing [Read More]

The Western Klamath Restoration Partnership

Happy New Year from MAPA! We’ll be kicking off 2017 on the MAPA blog with a post about meaningful tribal collaboration, traditional ecological knowledge and preventing natural disasters on federal lands. I am Paula Hertfelder, MA/PhD student at Binghamton University and Pathways Intern with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) at the Six Rivers National Forest in northern California. I started work this past summer on the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) – an interdisciplinary collaborative formed between the Karuk Tribe, the U.S. Forest Service, the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) and other stakeholders. This collaborative partnership addresses concerns over the increasingly devastating wildfires in the West in part by using traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and land management. It has also led to a successful collaboration between USFS and Karuk Tribal archaeologists, which has improved heritage resource management efforts. The WKRP is a case study of successfully integrating TEK and Western science, collaborative work, and how TEK can be incorporated into the expectations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when assembling an Environmental Assessment (EA). When conducting an EA, NEPA requires consultation with a range of stakeholders on varying concerns. There are many examples of TEK incorporation into the NEPA process, [Read More]

“So, you dug it up and then you just reburied it?”

Last summer, I was involved in a small excavation in northern New Mexico for my dissertation project. When I give formal talks about our work, with lots of background information, people get excited about the research questions and how much we learned from just a month of work. At those times I feel like I’m making some progress as a public archaeologist, something that is very new to me. But in more casual conversations, it’s sometimes hard to get the excitement across. Folks are intrigued at first when I tell them we were excavating a thousand year old building that may have had as many as 100 rooms, but then I can see their interest dim a little as they realize how small our excavation actually was. It usually leads to two questions: First, “Are you going back next summer?”  Second, “Wait, so you just reburied it all at the end? Archaeologists understand that extensive, long-term excavations are neither necessary nor feasible in most places, that research funding is severely limited, that our labs are full of artifacts and samples that we may never have time to properly analyze, and that backfilling is the best way to preserve architecture and features. But that is [Read More]