#SilentNightScience. Discussing the Marginalisation of Diverse Voices in Archaeological Research

Sponsored by Oxbow Books

#SilentNightScience. Discussing the Marginalisation of Diverse Voices in Archaeological Research

Elisa Perego (OREA, Austrian Academy of Sciences & Institute of Archaeology, UCL, eli.perego@googlemail.com)

Debate on social media and in the literature is drawing attention to the persisting lack of inclusivity in archaeology and science more in general. This may take the form of large trends (e.g. the “glass ceiling”) but also of micro-scale practices impacting people’s daily lives (e.g. lack of accessibility/support for disabled scholars). This is happening when the increasing casualisation of the workforce pushes researchers to make painful decisions about their future, which in turn makes the potential lack of inclusion and scientific recognition even more difficult to deal with on different levels.

#SilentNightScience debates #exclusion in archaeology by focusing on four themes:

  • Biographical narratives: did it happen to you? Which is the price we pay in an increasingly precarious profession?
  • Power dynamics: what is the role of sexism, ableism etc. in academic inequality?
  • Finding a solution: can we think of practical strategies to tackle academic inequality? What is the role of archaeological theory in promoting inclusive archaeologies?
  • Reading the past: is the potential erasure of different voices in archaeology influencing our interpretation of the past? Forty years after the rise of gender/feminist archaeology, to what extent has the field improved? Are recent political developments making the situation worse?

Following the #PATC Twitter Conferences, #SilentNightScience comprises presentations of 15 minutes each. Further debate is stimulated by the organiser.

Keywords: academic precariat; disability; exclusion; gender discrimination; marginality


Digital Papers

Debating an Archaeology of Marginality

Elisa Perego (OREA-Austrian Academy of Sciences/ UCL, eli.perego@googlemail.com) and Rafael Scopacasa (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais-UFMG/  University of Exeter, r.scopacasa@exeter.ac.uk)

The study of marginalized groups in the past and present is gaining momentum in Archaeology. In this introductory paper to the session, we delineate a research agenda for the archaeological investigation of marginality. We suggest that an approach centring on people on the margins of society has a lot to contribute to Archaeology and related disciplines. We address methods, aims and theoretical approaches to past marginality, with a focus on two issues. 1) the importance of addressing extreme social marginalization, by exploring how marginality functions in relation to other aspects of social identity beyond socio-economic status, including gender, age, health and personhood. 2) the importance of tackling marginality at both the micro-scale of the single life-history, and the macro-scale of changing dynamics of marginalization in the longue durée. Ultimately, we aim to foster discussion in a broader interdisciplinary context, by exploring the multi-dimensional aspects of past marginality and social exclusion.


Marginality in Late Prehistoric Peri-Alpine Europe

Elisa Perego (OREA-Austrian Academy of Sciences/ UCL, eli.perego@googlemail.com)

I present the preliminary results of the MSCA-funded CoPOWER Project, which investigates the transition to urban society in peri-Alpine Europe, c.2000-500 BC, through the lens of an Archaeology of Marginality approach. Many projects have investigated urbanization and increasing social stratification in later prehistory/protohistory by focusing on the elite groups that, supposedly, were the driving forces of these processes. By contrast, CoPOWER explores the life-histories of the marginal individuals that are often the forgotten protagonists of history: those who were socially excluded for their low status, gender, or disability; the victims of physical abuse and ritual violence; people subject to forced labour and undernourishment; and the women and infants that did not survive pregnancy and childbirth with malnutrition and poor living conditions as precipitating causative factors. Within this framework, I discuss the potential of a range of archaeological and bioarchaeological approaches to our understanding of past marginality -including the paleopathological and isotope analysis of human remains.



Burial Taphonomy as a Tool to recover Marginalised Individuals in Antiquity

Veronica Tamorri (Independent scholar, veronicatamorri@gmail.com)

Strategies to understand how dynamics of marginalisation worked in the past are developing rapidly in Archaeology. In this presentation, I will explore the theme of social marginality from the perspective of funerary archaeological evidence. In particular, I will argue that the implementation of methods such as burial taphonomy and archaeothanatology can enormously add to the reconstruction of patterns of social exclusion in the past. More specifically, taphonomy-based approaches are key to distinguish between actions intentionally carried out by social agents on burials and evidence representing fortuitous and possibly natural events occurring in the grave (e.g collapse of ribcage due to decomposition). In view of this, I will reassess a sample of potentially deviant burials with archeothanatology to 1) explore patterns of marginalisation in our distant past; 2) verify the potential of taphonomy-based methods in the identification of socially excluded individuals based on their burial treatment.


Climate Change and Marginality in Ancient Italy

Rafael Scopacasa (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais-UFMG/ University of Exeter, r.scopacasa@exeter.ac.uk)

Environmental research in Archaeology has often focused on the causes and large-scale effects of climate change. However, instances taking place at the micro-scale are not always explored as intensely, while the voices of marginal/ non-élite agents, who might be the main victims of environmental stress, are often silenced in Ancient History and Archaeology. This paper explores the agency of non-élite people based on a case-study from Republican-period Italy, involving potentially marginalized groups moving into drought-prone, agriculturally challenging lands. Climate data suggests that this happened during a warming phase, which may have exacerbated the challenges posed by the arid-prone areas occupied. I discuss how the interplay between socio-political and environmental forces may have shaped the agency of subaltern groups. This analysis can contribute towards a framework for the archaeological study of marginality and climate change – while addressing potential limitations in evidence and methods.


Pleasure of the Senses: An Archaeology of the Autistic Sensory World

Paulina Scheck (University of Toronto, Paulina.scheck@mail.utoronto.ca)

This paper is based on an analysis of a material assemblage consisting of images of stim toys contributed by autistic participants in online mental health groups. Archaeology is used to explore stimming as a pleasant, creative and playful material engagement, leading to intense sensory responses. Secondly, various forms of socialization around stimming are discussed, disproving its perception as a solitary and intensely isolating behavior. Lastly, the difference in sensory perception between autistics and neurotypicals informs a broader discussion of autistic embodied subjectivity and the destabilizing effect on taken for granted social constructs that the full recognition of its agency entails.