Humanizing our Heroes

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.

I received this thought-provoking comment on the last blog post and I thought it was interesting enough to give a longer and more visible answer than a comment response would provide.  I completely understand this viewpoint, especially in terms of lending our strong, feminist leaders the amount of respect they are absolutely entitled to receive.  I think it is contextual, and I suppose the casual academic culture of UC Berkeley archaeology can be a little startling to outsiders.

I didn’t write the “questionable” questions, but they were authored by current and past students who adore Meg and Ruth. I will be conducting and editing the interview and they trust me to be respectful AND playful–they trained me, after all. I also find that questions such as “favorite cocktail” can loosen the subject of the interview up, making them more comfortable in front of the camera.

I think that Meg and Ruth are both too interesting to be kept contained in strictly defined boundaries of their legacies within the profession. I hope that this interview will reflect what we experience as students–their generosity in wisdom and spirit, not that good archaeology is Serious Business.  I spoke to Ruth about that very topic yesterday when I mentioned this comment and viewpoint.  Her reaction was sadness–many times throughout her career she’s had to fight against the perception that she was not doing “real” archaeology, when anyone who knows the history of her career can see how her work has always pushed the boundaries of practice.

But I’m biased, obviously.

And hell, I’d love to know what cocktail Mortimer Wheeler favored. Anyone know?

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

3 thoughts on “Humanizing our Heroes”

  1. I don’t know about Wheeler’s favorite cocktail (seems like a gin and tonic type, though), but you should definitely ask Ruth to tell her Flinders Petrie story. And I completely agree that humanizing eminent scholars does not diminish them, but reminds us that they are real and fascinating people. I actually find that an odd comment; the theory is more likely to be dated in 20 years than the martini.

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