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Wenner Gren Workshop 2005

"The Public Meanings of the Archaeological Past:
Sociological Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography"

Quetzil E. CASTAÑEDA & Christopher N. MATTHEWS, Organizers
Pisté and Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, México. June 1-5, 2005
OSEA-The Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology, Institutional Sponsor


1. Paradigms and Practices of Archaeology and Ethnography

Present and discuss foundational conceptions of Archaeology in different registers, such as  Archaeology as a Science, Discipline, Governmentalist Institution, Public Sphere, and as a Media Apparatus.  Does archaeology need ethnography, if so why and how? What is the history of archaeologists’ changing conceptions of their identity, status, and work as science?  In what sense/s is archaeology sociological?  Does the conception of archaeology as sociology entail any changes in the forms, modes, ethics, and research practices of archaeology?  In what forms has an archaeological consciousness and reflexivity existed or functioned?  How can a conception of archaeology as sociological change the forms and modes of interacting with and engaging diverse publics?  What is “public” about Public Archaeology and what is the “beyond” of public archaeology?

Present and discuss foundational conceptions of Ethnography:  What are some relevant paradigmatic conceptions and models of ethnographic research that are viable for articulation with archaeology?  What are the current debates on issues of critical-reflexivity, applied and action research, postcolonial methodologies, representation, and how do these intersect or relate to the questions that archaeologists have about the sociological foundations of their subfield?  Can ethnography be the social and ethical “consciousness” of archaeology and what would that mean? What are the possible meanings and values of the notion of an “ethnography of archaeology”? 


2. Archaeological Ethnography, Model I:  Archaeology as Object

Present and discuss conceptions of archaeology as an object of study.  What kind of object of study is archaeology and what are appropriate forms of studying this object?  What kinds of socio-cultural analyses of archaeology are possible when archaeology is considered to be as a science, as public/social institution, as discourses of identity, and as the producer/production of heritage?  What role can ethnography play in the study of archaeology?  How can this ethnographic study of archaeology be incorporated into the “normal science” practice of archaeological research and formulation of research problems?  What value do these analyses and this ethnographic research have for the development of archaeology as a scientific discipline, institution, and practice that is engaged with diverse publics and stakeholders?


3. Archaeological Ethnography, Model II: Archaeology as Ethnography

Present and discuss the “ethnography” that already inhabits and operates in archaeology in the actual practices and conduct of research.  What kinds of “ethnography” do archaeologists “do” in the conduct and realization of archaeological research projects?  Can archaeologists do a kind of informal and practical “auto-ethnography” of their own research projects?  What are the sociological bases, conflicts, negotiations, and dynamics of research in terms of relations with resident communities and heritage descendent communities?  What are the publics of archaeology and are these conceptually and/or on-the-ground different from stakeholders? What publics and stakeholders are engaged or not engaged by archaeologists, and why?  What are the social and political constraints of research?  How are these constraints also enabling conditions that shape or channel knowledge production?  How can the ethnographic study and knowledge of these conditions become a part of the research process?  Is it feasible for archaeologists do more formally conduct and publish on their practical, and on-going “ethnographic” research that enables the realization of research projects?  What political and ethical dilemmas are implicated in such a possibility?


4. Archaeological Ethnography, Model III:  Archaeology as Subject

Present and discuss ways in which archaeology can incorporate ethnography and ethnographers into research design.  What kinds of ethnography can be conducted or incorporated “within” archaeology?  What kinds of knowledge can ethnography prouce that is relevant to the research design and problems of study?  Is it necessary, beneficial, harmful, and/or deleterious for one or more ethnographers to become incorporated into archaeological research projects?  What functions could they serve?  What kinds of conflicts interest might emerge from such collaboration and/or incorporation?  Would these be structural conflicts or based on more contingent factors, such as personality and theoretical frameworks?  Is there a way to do the ethnography of archaeology as part of archaeology research processes?  What are the limits and benefits?  What are the epistemological implications, difficulties and/or (im)possibilities of such a conjoining of ethnography into archaeological research?  How would ethnography serve to mediate competing interest groups, stakeholders, and publics?


5. Defining Vision & Agenda of a “ Sociological Archaeology”: Syntheses & Critical Reflection

Present and discuss syntheses and critical reflections.  Develop conclusions and formalize these into programmatic statements of actual and future possibilities of a sociological archaeology and archaeological ethnography.  Is there a need for archaeological ethnography?  What actually existing forms of archaeological ethnography are there? What are their limits and potentials?  What beneficial and detrimental role might ethnography play as mediator of archaeological publics and stakeholders?  Can models and guidelines be established for the incorporation or articulation of ethnographers into archaeological research projects? How might the possibility of an “archaeological ethnography” transform the very conception of what is archaeology as a science?




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