Apocryphilic, Epigraphic Archaeology

Being that I am a fervent scholar of the marginalia of archaeology, and that I am in the middle of some fairly hardcore dissertation reading and writing, I thought I’d take a break to blog about the use of epigraphs in archaeological writing. For the unwashed (including myself, as I had to look it up), an epigraph is a quote before the main body of a piece of writing. As wikipedia has it, “the epigraph may serve as a preface, as a summary, as a counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon, either to invite comparison or to enlist a conventional context.” (Sorry epigraphers, I didn’t mean to get you all excited.)

While many academics either don’t read them or don’t use them, a good epigraph gives context to the intellectual universe of the piece. It’s a yearning for what you wish you were writing or what you hope to convey with the coming turgid academic prose. It can serve as a nod to a more poetic literature, or as a reference to a parallel understanding of a subject. The Archaeology of Islam by Timothy Insoll begins each chapter with a quotation from the Qur’an, Archaeology as Political Action by Randall H. McGuire begins with a Marx & Engels quote and the Gero & Conkey collection Engendering Archaeology dedicates a full half-page to a quote from John Berger’s Pig Earth about a kind of cheese. It’s one of my favorite epigraphs and I reproduced it in full on my tumblr blog if you are curious.

I admit that when I added “Life is short and filled with stuff.  – The Cramps” as an epigraph to my first archaeology paper in graduate school, it was an oversimplified reaction to the main project of archaeology and probably a reflection of how homesick I was for my family of friends in Austin.

Beyond the relatively simple, static, textual epigraph, social media and digital technology can provide generalized epigraphic enhancement. If you were following my last.fm feed you could tell that I have certain songs that I listen to fairly regularly while I write. The songs shape and invade the writing, no matter how rigidly academic or blandly passive and prosaic the report or article may be. Tumblr and Flickr serve much the same purpose with quotes from books I’m reading or images from what is in front of me. One of my colleagues said that she could always see if her grad students were busy or stressed out by how many photos of books or coffee they were uploading. Digital technology can turn writing an article into a performance, if the writer chooses to let the audience into their secret chambers.

While it is possible that writing doesn’t need this amount of embroidered reflexivity, ultimately any piece of research is an assemblage. A good, elegantly written article can stand by itself–but sometimes I wish I could turn on a more universal “track changes” to see what lies beneath.

Sneak Preview – Then Dig

On June 1st, Then Dig, the collaborative archaeology group blog, will debut with its first issue: Distance. I’m getting together my post for Distance, but if you are interested in participating, the Call for Posts is here:

http://arf.berkeley.edu/then-dig/2011/05/cfpo-distance/

I made a one-sheet for it that we’ll be distributing on the various archaeology mailing lists. So, expect us!

CV – Revamp

I occasionally get people downloading my CV from my About page, and I feel a little embarrassed when it happens. The New Media CV is three years out of date, and the Archaeology CV is a ridiculous six pages long! I’ve made selective CVs from time to time for permits, the Qatar job and whatnot, but I wanted to make a one-page CV that shows what I do. I’ll certainly revise it when I start applying to academic jobs, but I think that it’s a pretty good representation of the weird interdisciplinary space I’m in.

While I was tempted to be creative, I just chose a slightly different font for my name and the section titles. I used Adobe Illustrator instead of Word so I could play with the spacing, but it looks like there’s some funny spacing under Publications.

The content of the CV was a little hard as well; there’s a reason I’ve kept separate archaeology and new media CVs. My teaching experience (11 semesters, not including field schools) and fieldwork (10 academic sites and about the same in CRM) took up a page each! I also knocked out my awards/honors and my grants because I think that most people if they don’t see NSF or Wenner Gren, they aren’t interested. The last thing I cut were my papers presented because there were 13 of them and the best of them have turned into publications anyway.

So what do you think? Too unprofessional? Too boring? Let me have it!