Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-7jw6s Total loading time: 0.283 Render date: 2022-12-06T05:06:58.794Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Surface assemblages. Towards an archaeology in and of the present

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2011

Abstract

This paper explores a central paradox in the aims of the archaeology of the contemporary past as they have been articulated by its practitioners. On the one hand, its aim has been expressed as one of making the familiar ‘unfamiliar’, of distancing the observer from their own material world; a work of alienation. On the other hand, it has also aimed to make the past more accessible and egalitarian; to recover lost, subaltern voices and in this way to close the distance between past and present. I suggest that this paradox has stymied its development and promoted a culture of self-justification for a subfield which has already become well established within archaeology over the course of three decades. I argue that this paradox arises from archaeology's relationship with modernity and the past itself, as a result of its investment in the modernist trope of archaeology-as-excavation and the idea of a past which is buried and hidden. One way of overcoming this paradox would be to emphasize an alternative trope of archaeology-as-surface-survey and a process of assembling/reassembling, and indeed to shift away from the idea of an ‘archaeology of the contemporary past’ to speak instead of an archaeology ‘in and of the present’. This would reorient archaeology so that it is seen primarily as a creative engagement with the present and only subsequently as a consideration of the intervention of traces of the past within it. It is only by doing this that archaeology will develop into a discipline which can successfully address itself to the present and future concerns of contemporary societies. Such a move not only has implications for archaeologies of the present and recent past, but concerns the very nature and practice of archaeology as a discipline in its broadest sense in the 21st century.

Type
Discussion Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
93
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Surface assemblages. Towards an archaeology in and of the present
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Surface assemblages. Towards an archaeology in and of the present
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Surface assemblages. Towards an archaeology in and of the present
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *