Thursday 28 May 2009

Archaeology and Englishness

This call for papers for the Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference 2009 in Durham caught my eye. I am sure the cosmoglobalpolitan portable antiquity collectors critics of "nationalism' embodied in archaeological resource protection measures will enjoy this one. Maybe they'd like to give a paper?

Field archaeology is an essentially English form of sport"
O.G.S Crawford

As Gordon Brown wrestles with how to promote a sense of 'Britishness', there are increased signs of revival of a sense of English identity, whether expressed through the resurgence in popularity of the English flag or increased call to celebrate St George's Day as a national holiday. There is also an increasing popular literature exploring the notion of the 'English' and 'Englishness' often creating essentialised models of the concept. However, whilst other discipline, such as art history, literary studies and geography have long treated the notion of 'Englishness' as conceptworthy of analysis and deconstruction, this has not been true for archaeology. Whether exploring the development of national traditions of scholarship or considering the way in which material culture is used to develop and maintain a sense of national identity, there has been a tendency for England to be subsumed within a wider British or imperial discourse (though there are some exceptions e.g. Johnson 2007). This session aims to restore this balance and consider the extent to which it is possible to recognise the notion of 'England' and 'Englishness'within archaeology. It is hoped to explore a number of facets of the problematic relationship between archaeology and English identity including:
1/ Materiality and Englishness: the way in which material
culture, structures and landscapes were used to create and maintain a distinct sense of English identity in past societies;
2/ The development of English traditions of archaeological scholarship and a consideration of the consequences of the development of 'England' as a distinct unit of analysis. Is there a distinct English tradition of archaeology or heritage management?;
3/ The use of archaeology to create discourses of 'Englishness' in popular culture..

Part of the answer to question two is obvious, yes, the Brits are the only nation under the sun to pat artefact hunters on the heads and call them "unsung heroes of the heritage". The archaeology of OGSC was also archtypically English, he's one of my heroes.

I admit I did not know Dave Petts had a blog, that'll certainly be worth a look.

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