It’s the second talk I’ve blogged in a week, but Spring is busy with talks, so give me a break! Carolyn White came to present on her project at Burning Man, the large annual festival in Black Rock desert, Nevada that has become a huge cultural phenomenon. I went in 2007, and mentioned it briefly here and here. Carolyn White has been conducting a project out there since 2008 and discussed some of her initial impressions in front of a packed room here at the Archaeological Research Facility. It was great to see so many “outside” people at an archaeology talk, but a little disheartening to see so few archaeology graduate students attending.
Carolyn made some interesting parallels with Lewis Binford’s ethnoarchaeology among the Nunamiut and with Jim Deetz’s historical archaeology, but I wish she would have gone into a bit more depth regarding spacial analysis, especially the structuration of space within the Burning Man camp. When I was there I felt very confined–almost crushed by the weight of so many people who had absolutely no idea of how to interact with a desert. She also made several mentions of a landscape “scrubbed clean” of all traces of humans, something that had the soil micromorphologist sitting next to me grumbling about. People leave traces of themselves wherever they go, as minute as they may be.
I was also very interested in her transformation of Burning Man into an archaeological subject. She took architectural photos with archaeological scales and artifact-like photographs of the legendary “moop” left behind each year by burners–how did this interaction with Burning Man as an academic subject change the way she saw the festival?
So, you can hear the talk yourself on Burning Man Radio. I’m not sure if they have an archive or how exactly it will be broadcast, but it was a really great talk by an archaeologist doing fun, innovative research out in the Black Rock desert.