Ruth Tringham and Meg Conkey, feminist pioneers and all-around superstars in archaeology are both retiring from UC Berkeley this year. I decided to write a small piece for the Association of Feminist Anthropologists commemorating their lives and their work and asked them to sit for an interview. At some point I decided that it would probably be a good idea to tape it, so I’ll be filming them on Monday afternoon, then editing the piece into a short little film.
I asked for questions for the interview on Facebook and Twitter, then formulated some of my own. They aren’t in conversation order–usually I just see where they conversation is going and try to fit it in. I’ve given them both this list so they can think about it over the weekend. Some of them are silly, inside jokes and some of them ask for Meg and Ruth to predict the future. We’ll see how it goes–let me know what you think!
Were there particular people who you saw as mentors or whose ideas inspired you?
What is your definition of “public archaeology?” What does this mean to them?
What was your worst field season ever?
Best field season ever?
What was the one moment that shifted their archaeological perspective to a more post-processual angle?
Best hot tub party? Worst hot tub party?
Unique challenges of being female faculty? How have they seen/felt this change over the years?
What are they most proud of achieving?
Advice they’d give on maintaining their passion for archaeology and university shenanigans?
What is the future for academic archaeology – how will our careers be different from yours?
Biggest mistake they see graduate students making (in their opinion, of course)? How they would structure a department if they could?
What do they think the next big and interesting theoretical debates will be?
What debates do they are stagnating the field?
Who and where will the next big ideas come out of?
Were there particular people who they saw as mentors, or whose ideas inspired them? What kept them going through difficult times?
What geographic area, unrelated to what you are doing now, would you like to work in?
What was your most interesting “backstage” moment in archaeology?
When did it become obvious that archaeology was becoming overwhelmingly “female?” What challenges does this bring to the field?
When will this become reflected in hiring practices?
Do you think that archaeology as a craft will receive recognition, or do you think our practitioners in the field will continue unappreciated and underpaid?
Do either of you plan to write memoirs?
5 thoughts on “Interview with Meg Conkey and Ruth Tringham – the questions!”
Hi, Colleen, As usual, your ideas are amazing. The film sounds excellent and I look forward to viewing and sharing it. But, reminder, you’ve made the film for the Association “for Feminist Anthropology”, not “of Feminist Anthropologists.” The name is one of acknowledgement of an extensive theoretical and methodological influence within anthropology rather than of individual anthropologists’ identifications. Conversely, if feminisms are also to extend their influence, who–and of what intersectional set of identities–identifies as “feminist,” and under what circumstances, seems incredibly important as well (especially given the exploitation of the label by Sarah Palin et al.). So, I would ask you to include the questions whether Drs. Conkey and Tringham consider themselves feminist, and why/why not–it seems both timely and significant. Best, Jane (Henrici)
I think what it mostly means is that I’m crap at acronyms. Some things never change….
I think it would be interesting to ask them what it means to them to be “feminist in archaeology”. What did it mean when they were first starting out and what does it mean now? Is there still a need for feminist archaeology? And if so what form should it take? Were there any particular experiences in their careers that led to them self-identifying as feminist? Is there a necessary connection between being concerned with understanding gender and women in the past, and addressing gender imbalances in the present? What methodologies should be developed and what research goals do they hope to set for the next generation of archaeologists?
Please don’t ask the question about favorite cocktails and best hot-tub parties/worst hot-tub parties. The answers to those questions have no longevity. They have no bearing on what the contributions of these two women are to the discipline. A number of efforts recently have focused on recording interviews with major figures in anthropology. Do you think in 20 years anyone will find it informative that their favorite drink was a martini? It isn’t relevant. Please don’t do it.
are these interviews done – and are they available?