Feminist Archaeologies: Intersectionality, Interpretation, Inclusivity

Part of the ‘Applying Archaeological Theory‘ Strand Sponsored by Big Heritage

Feminist Archaeologies: Intersectionality, Interpretation, Inclusivity

With BAJR Respect and BWA

Rachel Pope (University of Liverpool, Rachel.Pope@liverpool.ac.uk)

Lucy Shipley, (Portable Antiquities Scheme, lshipley805@gmail.com)

Anne Teather (University of Manchester, Anne.Teather@manchester.ac.uk)

This session will explore the impact of revitalised feminist activism in archaeology,  discussing progress made, demonstrating potential for the future and demanding continued engagement for positive change across the discipline. We seek to bring together: perspectives on the gendered nature of current working conditions in both field and academic archaeology; feminist analyses of material culture and past lives; and the history of women archaeologists. The session will showcase the wide range of feminist views and approaches in archaeology and their power to drive change.

The session draws on the longstanding but nonetheless underestimated engagement of archaeologists with feminist theory, as well as more recent activism as prompted by movements such as #MeToo and BAJR Respect, and the gendered impact of the recent strike. The session is envisaged as fundamentally intersectional, and paper proposals are particularly invited that explore relationships between gender, race, sexuality, and (dis) abilities in both past and present.

The formal session will be followed up with an informal discussion, providing an opportunity for deeper engagement with the ideas presented and, crucially, a safe space for sharing experiences and building support networks. It will be live tweeted to reach the widest possible audience. We also welcome submissions of Twitter papers, which will be presented prior to the session, in order to widen participation still further.

Keywords: feminism, intersectionality, activism, interpretation, change.



Ten years of British Women Archaeologists – Was it Worth it?

Rachel Pope, (University of Liverpool, Rachel.Pope@liverpool.ac.uk), and Anne Teather, (University of Manchester, Anne.Teather@manchester.ac.uk)

At TAG 2008 in Southampton, BWA was launched by Rachel Pope and Anne Teather. The event stimulated a lot of discussion and support, but there was some dissent and suspicion about its aims. In 2008, Facebook was only used by a small number of people, and social media was in its infancy. The 2008 survey had been conducted by email and a word document, a fact that seems archaic now. This paper will explore the last decade of activism, our participation at government events and our recent inclusion in the CIfA cross-sector meeting on Equality and Diversity. Do we still have something to offer here or would new voices and movements such as Trowelblazers, Enabled Archaeology and the Inclusive Archaeology project, be more useful for progress to be made? Should we still put women’s issues front and centre of equality discussions?


Where do you see yourself in five years?

Becky Wragg Sykes, (Independent Scholar); Tori Herridge, (Natural History Museum); Brenna Hassett, (Natural History Museum); Suzanne Pilaar Birch, (University of Georgia.) (teamtrowelblazers@gmail.com)

TrowelBlazers was an unplanned child born in 2013, and like all parents we’ve been on a steep learning curve full of hard work and mistakes, mixed with wonderful things. But we’re now thinking hard about what we want this movement– a whole community has got us here– to grow up into.

At the outset we simply wanted to show the gigantic scale of women’s contributions in archaeology (and the earth sciences), from a “see it, be it” perspective that recognised the strength of role models. TrowelBlazers built on an existing body of scholarship with the intention to bring it to new audiences, helping them “reimagine” who has always been in our discipline. Despite lacking a project plan, we’ve evolved from a website to massive collaborative projects.

This aspect of co-operation– together with our democratic team structure– echoes one of the key lessons we’ve learned about feminist engagement in archaeology. Then and now, connectivity is vital. Great power lies in building our own networks of mentoring, training, and collaboration. This talk discusses where we want TrowelBlazers to be in another five years and the challenges we foresee in getting there.


“The Real Problem is not whether Machines think but whether Men do”

Lorna Richardson (UEA, Lorna.Richardson@uea.ac.uk)

Contemporary society has been indelibly marked by the intensified growth of new digital data collection and communication technologies in the early years of the 21st century. The use of these technologies is inherently gendered, often in complex and subtle ways. Questions of masculinity, power and online violence have acquired increased urgency. In the light of the #MeToo movement, and the rapid growth of digitally-mediated masculine cultural ideologies, archaeology must address the challenges and contradictions presented by digital manifestations of hegemonic masculinity within and beyond the discipline. This paper will discuss the results of recent data collection which extends the important work of Perry, Shipley & Osbourne (2015), and the authors own research, Richardson (2014). It will discuss how these data can be analysed to better understand the nuanced forms of gender exclusion, inclusion and performative masculinities that can be found in public archaeology communications in a variety of formats. It will then discuss how digital data sets such as these might be used to highlight issues surrounding participation, inequalities and mediated gendered violence within the archaeological sector, and be used to support the implementation of pro-active policies by our archaeological institutions.


Dreams, Realities and Deleuze: Achieving Equality and Diversity in Archaeology

Hannah Cobb (University of Manchester,Hannah.Cobb@manchester.ac.uk)

The Dream Abstract: this paper will outline the amazing forward strides in equality and diversity happening in British Archaeology at the moment as a result of the collective action of so many. Drawing on my insights as chair of the CIfA Equality and Diversity Group I will outline the many initiatives being undertaken and examine the future directions of our equal and diverse profession.

The Real Abstract: I’d love to give the paper above, but I don’t know if I can. I submit my abstract at a point of flux; CIfA, FAME and Prospect are about to start an industry working group on equality and diversity, whilst CIfA’s advisory council have created an internal working party to explore the work CIfA must do on the subject. Will things change? Are things changing? Right now it is hard to know.

BUT one thing is for sure; this is TAG, so everything will be made better through the lens of some exciting theory! Therefore, I will turn to approaches with their roots in the work of Deleuze, Guarttari and DeLanda to examine the value of Assemblage Theory for feminism in archaeology and to explore whether and how new materialist theoretical approaches have value for equality and diversity across the heritage sector in Britain today.


The Legacy of Colonialism within Feminism and the Archaeology of the Middle East

Elizabeth Hicks, (University of Leiden, e.r.hicks@umail.leidenuniv.nl)

Feminism’s resurgence within archaeology has not just been felt within western spheres. Archaeologists focusing on the Middle East are becoming more aware that women are underrepresented within interpretations of material culture and historical narratives. This paper will explore to what extent the legacy of colonialism and orientalism are interwoven within feminism and archaeology, and the consequences of this shared context. At this pivotal junction, the author will draw on their own research into the gendered household across the Islamic period, along with recent debates within the UK media, and key feminist literature. This research will discuss how these factors have moulded our view of women in the Middle East, both past and present. Ultimately, this paper aims to question the conduits of power that allow archaeologists to work in the Middle East without interrogating the imbalance of power, created through archaeologies co-existence with colonialism.


Intersectionality: A Useful Category for the Historical Analysis of Oppressed Communities? The Case of Chamorro Women in Spanish Colonial Guam (18th Century).

Enrique Moral de Eusebio (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, enrique.moral@upf.edu)

Since its inception in 1989, intersectionality has received great acceptance among gender studies scholars, even within archaeology. Although the term can be useful when analysing how different oppressions intersect on individuals, I will claim that the emphasis placed by intersectional approaches on individuals and on their personal experiences show that it may not constitute the most appropriate category for analysing the oppressions suffered by whole communities. In this communication I will adopt a (trans)feminist and decolonial stance to examine how different oppressions (especially those of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and age) were articulated on the native women of Guam, in the Marianas Islands, during the early Spanish colonization of the archipelago. In so doing, I will propose the category of “matrix of domination”, coined by Patricia Hill Collins, as an alternative to intersectionality in order to study the interrelation of different oppressions in communities.


My Brilliant Friends: Biography and Archaeology, Theory and Practice

Lucy Shipley (Portable Antiquities Scheme, lshipley805@gmail.com)

Telling stories is what archaeologists do. The biography of objects, their trajectory from production through use to deposition, is what we excavate and record, write about and draw. This paper explores the potential of the biographical turn in feminist thought, and how it might interact with the archaeological project of tracing the life courses of people and things. It uses the works of the novelist Elena Ferrante to develop a new theory of archaeological biography, drawing on case studies from Etruscan archaeology and exposing the biases that continue to structure current interpretative narratives in this (and other) arenas of study. I will demonstrate that this form of biographical approach has potential value both for structuring archaeological interpretations of the past, and for navigating and negotiating practitioners’ experiences of archaeology in the present.