I was grateful to be invited to the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA 2019) conference in Kraków, Poland this year. I participated in the Our Knowledge is all over the place! roundtable organized by Paul Reilly, Stephen Stead and John Pouncett. We had one slide and five minutes in which to discuss a bespoke “knowledge map” that captured our collective disciplinary knowledge.
I’m still digesting the discussion afterwards and my fellow panelists’ perspectives. I was pretty nervous ahead of time as I had basically made a very personal knowledge map about how I framed my own practice and it felt very revealing. I drew heavily from Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and carla bergman and Nick Montgomery’s Joyful Militancy, which have been profoundly impactful in my current practice. I’ve had the kernels of these ideas for a while (see my graduation commencement speech) but the books have given me some of the language and tools to precisely address and actualize this thinking. Empire. Paranoid Reading. Alternatives, not multivocality.
I was also very happy to hear from my fellow panelists: Paul Reilly, Pricilla Ulguim, Tuna Kalayci, Katherie Cook, Lorna Richardson, Daria Hookk (et al), John Pouncett, In-Hwa Choi and Natalia Botica (et al). We all had very different takes on the concept of knowledge maps and it was illuminating to hear from everyone.
I made a loose script, which I loosely adhered to for my five minutes–if you are interested, find it below.
An Anarchist Feminist Poshuman Digital Archaeology
How can (digital) archaeology defeat Empire?
Following Bergman and Montgomery, I “use “Empire” to name the organized destruction under which we live.
This is my knowledge map about how I attempt to do digital archaeology under Empire.
Making knowledge maps is ultimately a conservative gesture. Huggett Reilly and Lock note: “Regardless, all positions face the possibility of being severely tested by some large-scale external event: on every continent we witness economic and political upheaval, violence and social conflict.”
This is already happening. The Gallup Global State of Emotions report came out yesterday and people worldwide are sadder, angrier and more fearful than ever before.
My contribution is less about protecting against, but navigating and instigating what Hugget, Reilly and Lock call “The Commune of Digital Anarchism.” I’m not as interested in cataloguing what we know but in asking how can we weaponize digital archaeology to fight fascism, structural inequality and capitalism and if we can use it to incite joy and transformative creativity?
I’m ecstatic that so many of the sessions (Archaeological Data for Modern Problems and Digital archaeology of modern conflict landscapes, particularly Patricia Martin-Rodilla’s work on the disappeared of Sao Paulo) and many people in the audience have more fully implemented projects that forward this agenda (including Erik Champion’s PhD student Rusaila Bazlamit who explored design activism to reconstruct historic landscapes of Palestine and contrasts them with the modern security checkpoints).
However I hope that I can add clarity to this discussion—I have heard a lot about egalitarianism, cooperation, and public outreach, but it’s missing some vocabulary that would actualize the research and make it more discernible to activists, students, and stakeholders.
So here’s my knowledge map!
I made the dire mistake of coining a neologism in my latest publication to describe Embodied, synthestetic, political interpretation, and how people from the past and present can come together in a digital interstitial space.
Craft vs. Efficiency
Caraher’s slow, punk, archaeologies of care, and Annie Danis’ work on how the efficiencies of digital archaeology can make space for analog archaeology
Subversion vs Incorporation under capitalism
Using the unexpected to decentre, surprise, interfere with understanding the past (Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco has used the uncanny to describe this)
Braidotti & Haraway
Posthumanism, exploring digital and political ways to think, feel, and make kin
Perry’s Enchantment model vs the Neoliberal dreadnaught of contract archaeology in stretching that last pound, euro, dollar, zwoty…breaking your workers and making digital archaeology a handmaiden in this endeavor (also speaks to craft vs efficiency)
Uncovering alternative narratives & scholarship not multivocality, which leads to liberal both-sideism–superficial inclusion is ghettoization and pandering and speaks to Marcuse’s concept of “repressive tolerance.” The archaeological canon is broken, needs reloaded.
Spinoza: Ethics vs Moralism
Questions, not codes.
“For Spinoza, the whole point of life is to become capable of new things, with others. His name for this process is joy.” Bergman and Montgomery cite Spinoza’s ethics in speaking to evoking this joy.
Capitalist Realism – Mark Fisher
“Capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable” It pervades our archaeological interpretations….
The Black Trowel Collective
Anarchist archaeologists looking to “Expand the realm of the possible”
Conkey & Tringham: the media has fostered patriarchal, essentialist, authoritative thinking, this must be fought with hammer and tongs on every level possible.
Joyful Militancy – Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery
Joyful Militancy is the feeling of the power to change one’s life and circumstances is at the core of collective resistance, insurrections, and the construction of alternatives to life under Empire.
This is opposed to Rigid Radicalism -The impulse to be the most radical, the most anti-oppressive, the most militant
Which often become apparent in paranoid reading – a penchant in radical thought for constant critique, is based on a stance of suspicion, seeks to ward off bad surprises—you are always on guard and never surprised.
As Jameson and Zizek say “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”
But our stakeholders, our publics have been asking for us to help find pasts that can help us build a foundation for different ways of thinking.
Wengrow and Graeber note, and I paraphrase:
“we do not have to choose between an egalitarian or hierarchical start to the human story.”
In the past, shifting between egalitarian and hierarchical forms of social organization allowed (past people) mature and self-conscious political actors to be continually aware that no social order was immutable: that everything was at least potentially open to negotiation, subversion, and change.
Flexner and Gonzalez-Tennant “One primary area of (anarchist) inquiry stems from dissatisfaction with, and deep scepticism of, linear narrative building that places capital and the state as inevitable endpoints of cultural evolution”
Archaeology is the collective, deep chonological documentation of the capacity of humans to imagine different ways to live.
I am a digital archaeologist because I find it transformative and creative; how then can we bring this transformative, creative power to help think our way out of capitalist realism?