Theme details and updates
The following sixteen themes define the framework of the WAC-8 Kyoto Meeting. Click on the title of each theme to see abstracts. See guidelines and form for session proposals here.
Click theme to read its abstract
Peter G. Gould (University of Pennsylvania)
Development—economic growth and the political and social changes associated with it—has become deeply enmeshed with archaeology. Archaeologists are underwriting community development projects, contending with industrial or infrastructure developers, making their livings employed as commercial archaeologists, and working with communities seeking either to benefit from development or to protect traditions from the impact of development. National and international protocols intended to protect and promote heritage and archaeology are encountering obstacles from diverse and sometimes unanticipated directions rooted in development imperatives. Not surprisingly, the discipline is at odds concerning these trends.
Archaeologists are at once repelled by the threat posed by development to traditional cultures and the archaeological record; dependent increasingly on tourism, resource extraction or infrastructure development to fund archaeological exploration and conservation; and balancing the anthropologist’s or archaeologist’s desire to preserve material and intangible culture with local communities’ desire for the material and intangible fruits of development. This theme is intended to explore the intersection of archaeology and development in all of its manifestations. We start with the view that it is time for archaeologists to move beyond mere description of the difficulties associated with development. What is needed is in-depth analysis of the contending social, political, and economic forces involved in development, and exploration of the policies and practices best suited to manage those forces. Sessions organized under this theme should seek to make progress in the search for ethical clarity and practical impact as archaeologists engage with development issues. Session organizers should seek to assemble presenters who collectively can address focused themes from complimentary perspectives.
John Carman (University of Birmingham) and Hilary A Soderland (University of Washington)
It is increasingly widely recognised that – like it or not – archaeology is as much a political activity as it is a purely intellectual endeavour. In recognition of the varied ways in which issues of power and authority affect and imbue archaeological practice and theory, this Theme invites sessions that seek to explore archaeology as politics in all its manifestations.
Politics inevitably emerges in our dealings with others. Sessions may address issues of disciplinary authority and how they impact upon ourselves and others; the controls we exercise over material culture; the role of archaeology and archaeologists in public policy at the level of the locality and the nation state; the role of archaeology in diplomacy and international relations; and the conduct of archaeology in conflict zones.
Politics is also a factor in our relations within our working environments. Sessions might consider archaeology as a public service; the role of the archaeologist as a ‘public intellectual’; pressures upon archaeologists to present or conform to particular ideological positions; the privatisation and commercialisation of archaeology; and the relations of archaeologists to each other, to colleagues and to students. Sessions may also look at the politics of publication and of the archaeological conference.
Overall, the Theme aims to provide environments for the consideration of politics in both the practice and theory of the discipline, as well as the politics of the relationship between theory and practice. Sessions can be of any form: we invite especially those that take an innovative and original shape, and those led by non-archaeologists. The politics of archaeology affects us all, and we all have a role in politics. This Theme will explore the interconnection between these aspects of our work.
Uzma Z. Rizvi (Pratt Institute) and Hirofumi Kato (Hokkaido University)
At the core of this theme is a desire to decolonize and critically evaluate ongoing practices that define archaeology. As global efforts to redefine archaeological practice are underway to ensure a more just and equitable practice, past colonial histories of archaeology must be taken into account and re-considered. The coloniality of archaeological practice implicates epistemic violence in which under the guise of ‘science,’ archaeology makes demands upon bodies, landscapes, memories, histories, and heritage. Recent strides in Community Archaeology, Postcolonial Archaeology, and Indigenous Archaeology have attempted to redress many of these concerns, but it is clear there is much more to be done.
Panels considered under this theme should address issues related to decolonization, coloniality, the postcolonial critique, and indigenous archaeologies through an amplification, implementation and consideration of inclusion of local voices, diversity and multiculturalism in context, heritage/heritage management, repatriation, politics of collaboration, benefits flow, reciprocity, power sharing, sustainability, gendering experience and practice, queering archaeology, social memory, post-western archaeologies, among other possible topics. Also of interest are national projects that reinstate colonial expectations, national institutions of archaeology, and linked to that, the manners in which archaeology is taught (pedagogical practices). Additional topics may include policy-making as archaeological process, ideas related to materials as witness as a stance of inclusion and multiplicity of voices, critiques of the coding of traditional versus contemporary art and its relationship to heritage, and postcolonial heritages. We welcome all proposals for panels contending with these issues, including but not limited to interdisciplinary viewpoints/authors, non-archaeologists, and non-traditional formats.
Anne Pyburn (Indiana University), Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly’s (Archeologia) and Marcia Bezerra (Sociedade de Arqueologia Brasilia)
The World Archaeological Congress was born when Peter Ucko encouraged an international group of archaeologists to accept their responsibility to social justice and take a principled stand against South African apartheid and all kinds of political oppression. Following this watershed event, Archaeology has undergone a revolution in professional practice resulting from and further instigating changes in both method and theory. Many of the important changes in the discipline are related to a new sense of ethical responsibility to archaeology’s many publics, and the recognition that among these constituencies are important heritage experts besides academic and scholarly specialists. Archaeologists themselves have been led into active engagement with topics that archaeologists of the last generation mostly strove to avoid, and now routinely engage in economic development, community based research, Indigenous rights movements, critiques and protests addressing heritage and nationalism, and the politics of preservation, tourism, and UNESCO. Many previous congress sessions have addressed the rise of such efforts but now it is time for a discussion and reconsideration of the successes and failures stemming from the WAC revolution. Sessions comprising the WAC-8 Theme “Archaeological Ethics: Where Are We Now?” will take the next step and begin to review, analyze, and evaluate the successes and failures of archaeologists’ efforts to reach new levels of social responsibility and political engagement over the 30 years since Peter Ucko turned archaeology’s responsibility for the past to the future.
Kunihiko Wakabayashi (Doshisha University)
In the globalizing world, archaeological activities and their results should be comparable beyond the borders of various nationalities, continental traditions, or regional ethnicities. Attempts have been made to make sense of regional differences in methodology, theory-building and archaeological narrative production through inter-regional comparison. But for such comparable discussions to exist, it is essential that archaeological studies of each region be showed as some kind of meaningful sequences or explainable processes. We set this theme to give a stage for presentations and discussions based on both regional studies and comparable interregional perspectives. Topics included in this theme may include the distributional process of Homo sapiens, the cultural transitions associated global climate change, the beginning of agricultural societies, the rise of states and complex societies, or the archeological reconstruction of settlements and cities in the historic era. We invite individuals to volunteer exciting sessions that give us a new agenda for regional and comparable archaeologies.
Gustavo Politis (the Universidad Nacional del Centro, Buenos Aires)
The development of archaeology in the last few decades has expanded the discipline toward unprecedented frontiers. At the same time, the process of globalization creates new ways of interaction and original and fast mechanism for disseminating information. This new scenario has produced a novel relationship between the local archaeologies, which are also growing fast and in a dendrite mode, with the global archaeological subject (such as the domestication process, the technological innovation, the mechanism of migration, the emergence of social hierarchies, the people-things entanglement, etc.). In this context, it is not always clear how close and detailed local archaeologies can contribute to come up to the somewhat distant global and broader issues. This gap in the different scales could be waived by the means of the regional dimension, which creates an adequate platform to approach the globalized issues in the archaeological agenda.
This theme proposes to set the context where the regional scales can contribute to discuss global archaeological issues. These issues could be approached regionally or thematically (where the subject is the axis, and the region is the scale). Potential regions and themes includes:
- How the archaeology of Africa is contributing to global archaeology issues?
- How the archaeology of North America is contributing to global archaeology issues?
- How the archaeology of South America is contributing to global archaeology issues?
- How the archaeology of Europe is contributing to global archaeology issues?
- How the archaeology of Eastern Asia is contributing to global archaeology issues?
- How the archaeology of Western Asia is contributing to global archaeology issues?
- How the archaeology of Oceania is contributing to global archaeology issues?
- The process of plant and animal domestication in a global context
- Technological innovations: where, how and when?
- The emergence and growth of social inequality
- Ethnogenesis and adaptation from a global perspective
- Representation and style
- Ethnic identity and material culture
Claire Smith (Flinders University) and Neel Kamal Chapagain (Ahmedabad University)
We all engage with ‘archaeology’ and ‘heritage’ from the perspectives in which we are educated. This ‘educated’ engagement with archaeology ultimately seeks to ‘educate’ others too, both archaeologists and non-archaeologists. However, these perspectives vary across the world, according to the culture in which we are embedded. Moreover, our ideas about education in archaeology evolve with practice and with age. Hence, education is not static resource pool, but a continuous process that involves the production, consumption, appropriation and reappropriation of knowledge. As new ideas are encountered old ideas have to be revisited, revised or rejected. New technology feeds into this.
The Education theme at WAC-8 will take global approach to explore the different ways in which people share their evolving knowledge and wisdom, eventually contributing to the original source of their knowledge: their disciplinary field, understandings of archaeological sites and relationships with communities. The scope of investigation will span from the education of professionals to the education of the public. This theme will reflect upon various traits of education including:
- formal or degree granting education;
- professional/continuing education;
- short term education/training programs;
- informal education;
- the use of modern media in education;
- learning by doing, and
- the education and uneducation of archaeologists (how people learn and unlearn things along the way).
Sessions should be organized in one or more of the above or similar themes, and individual papers may be framed within the scope of each session. Some sessions may feature comparative discussions of different models of courses or course syllabi, or consideration of educational experiences within various schools of thought. Our final aim is to identify different perspectives and approaches to the central issue of education in archaeology.
Akira Matsuda (University of Tokyo) and Alicia McGill (North Carolina State University)
WAC, since its inception, has always championed archaeology that closely engages with the public. The degree to which archaeology needs to concede its authority to the public in this engagement, however, has been a subject of debate. At one end of a spectrum there have been archaeologists who stick to the traditional practice of archaeology, while occasionally consulting the public for information that can be usefully used for their archaeological investigation. At the other end of the spectrum there have been archaeologists who encourage members of the public to set an agenda of investigation into the past by themselves, and seek to facilitate this process by offering specialist advice whenever necessary. Both groups of archaeologists engage with the public, with the authority of decision-making staying largely with the archaeologists in the former case, and being greatly conceded to the public in the latter. Acknowledging that the great majority of ‘public archaeology’ takes place somewhere between the two ends, we wish to ask where archaeology stands today – thirty years since the establishment of WAC – with regard to its public engagement.
The two keywords that need particular attention are: heritage and museums. Over the last few decades critics have successfully argued that heritage is a fluid concept bound up with people’s collective identities and it should therefore be considered as a process, politically charged, rather than a product. Accepting this, one might reasonably ask how archaeology, which too is a ‘process’ of understanding the past, should relate to heritage today. Our understanding of museums, where most of the objects unearthed from archaeological fieldwork end up, has also changed drastically over the last few decades. Once conceived as temples where valuable objects are stored, museums today are understood as fora, where people engage with objects not only for educational but also for social and political purposes. How should then archaeology relate to museums today?
Within this theme we also hope to diversify the discussion around heritage and museums to incorporate the interdisciplinary intersections that exist within the realm of archaeological practice and heritage studies today. Indeed, discussions about collaboration, sharing authority, and connections with various publics are central to fields such as public history, cultural resource management, museum studies in addition to archaeology so sessions that draw from such fields are encouraged.
Sessions organized under this theme are not just to describe ‘how things are’, but to actively discuss ‘how things should be’, in consideration of the changing social roles of archaeology, heritage and museums. As the various approaches to archaeological practice and engagement through heritage and museum work raise many questions about methodology, training, pedagogy, theory, and professional ethics, we welcome sessions that explore and address questions such as:
- What possibilities and challenges arise when heritage and museum practitioners work closely with various publics?
- How can and should future generations of heritage and museum scholars and practitioners be trained in research and collaborative methodology?
- How can interdisciplinary perspectives inform heritage and museum practices in archaeology today?
What can we learn from changes in heritage and museum work over the last thirty years?
Cornelius Holtorf (Linnaeus University) and Güneş Duru (Galatasaray University)
Archaeological theory is no longer defined in terms of a number of strong dichotomies that were prevalent during the second half of the 20th century: old and new, processual and interpretive, critical and scientistic archaeologies, to name but a few… The theme “Theory for the Future” will encompass sessions that explicitly seek to break new ground for archaeological theory.
We particularly encourage sessions that:
- include both junior and senior archaeologists from different parts of the world;
- create debate about the present and likely future status and character of archaeological theory;
- address topics that are globally relevant;
- draw on ideas published, at least in parts, in other languages than English;
- introduce new concepts and express new concerns for archaeological theory;
- discuss implications of established or emerging archaeological theories for various challenges of archaeological practice;
- take up the specific needs of future societies and how archaeological theory can contribute to meeting them.
Archaeological theory needs abstract presentations but it needs lively discussion even more. All sessions are therefore strictly required to include ample time for discussion. Session organizers are encouraged to enlist discussants followed by time for open debate. Plenary discussions and small roundtables are welcome too. Theory for the future means debate for the future.
Robin Torrence (Australian Museum)
Scientific concepts and methods are essential to modern archaeology, but the rapidly increasing number and sophistication of techniques challenge scholars to make the best use of potential opportunities. To address this problem, contributions will showcase the broadest possible range of recent innovations in archaeological science through the presentation of cutting edge case studies sourced from across the world. Subject areas could include, but are not restricted to, general topics such as dating, diet reconstruction, innovation, craft specialization, trade and exchange, domestication, mobility, demography, etc. or approaches like DNA, provenance identification, isotopes, tool residues, geoarchaeology, zooarchaeology, palaeobotany, materials science, etc. Sessions will also critically examine the utility and relevance of scientific approaches and techniques for answering questions posed by contemporary archaeological theory. What are the current limitations of scientific archaeology? How can current challenges be overcome through new methods, collaborations or synergies? Can research efforts and funding be better directed to tackle significant questions about the past? In addition, what are the exciting developments on the horizon? The aim of the sessions and discussion forums is to showcase top quality research in all areas of archaeological science as well as to consider current and potential problems and challenges for the field, particularly in terms of research agendas, sustainability of data, democratizing access to data and facilities, and the maintenance of standards and rigour.
Timothy Insoll (Manchester University)
Fundamental to human ontology since prehistory have been concepts of spirituality. Relevant beliefs have taken many forms and have generated a diverse archaeological legacy. Landscape, architecture, burial, settlement, diet, art, the human body, perception of the world, can all be influenced by religion and spirituality. Varied approaches have also been adopted in exploring religion and spirituality in archaeological contexts. Consensus does not always exist in the terminology employed – spirituality, religion, religiosity, belief, ritual etc. – or in the degree to which they are applicable archaeologically. Different theoretical perspectives and methodologies have also been adopted according to religious ‘types’ or beliefs – ‘world’, indigenous, literate, oral, living, disappeared – and whether viewed from an emic or etic position. Ethical considerations can be significant, sensitivities enhanced and controversies created where the focus is upon religion and spirituality. Ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, status; identities can be defined, structured, and suppressed by such beliefs. The ‘Religion and Spirituality’ theme seeks to explore these in a global perspective and across time. Sessions and papers that consider spirituality, ritual, and religion in all these dimensions and in both prehistoric and historic contexts are encouraged.
Kristian Kristiansen (University of Gothenburg)
’Interaction’ is a covering concept for the multitude of ways prehistoric and historic communities stayed in contact, peacefully or violently. From travels to trade, from warfare to migration. To operationalize the concept we therefore need to specify the historical conditions that would either allow, constrain or stimulate various types of interaction. We also need to specify types of interaction, as each of them come with certain institutional demands: traders needs routes and protection, whether at sea or land, formed by political alliances and agreements. Thus, in order to reach a fuller understanding of ancient traveling and trading networks we need to study 1) the nature of ancient knowledge of the world (their cognitive maps, sometimes preserved in texts, more often not), 2) the nature of mobile technologies and their capacities (from ships to wagons and caravans, but also the infrastructures/logistics to support them), and 3) archaeological knowledge of the goods being traded, their origin and distribution. Finally, how do we identity the various types of interactions in the archaeological record: traders, warriors, sailors, colonizers? This is the last part of the theoretical and methodological exercise, and can be carried out once we have defined the historical contexts, the types of interaction and their institutional contexts. At a more local level interaction is also linked to an understanding of cultural boundaries, how they were crossed, and how they were maintained. At the macro level we may study how different social formations are linked together in ancient World Systems, formed by a multiple types of interactions.
Katsuyuki Okamura (Osaka City Cultural Properties Association), Nathan Schlanger(École nationale des chartes) and Makoto Tomii (Kyoto University)
The history of humankind cannot be discussed without including our response to disasters. Natural hazards and human-caused disasters have altered peoples’ lives, their settlements, and surrounding landscapes in the past and present. Archaeology has identified these disasters along with their contexts, and explored the interactions between humans and nature, and the long-term implications of human activities. More importantly, the investigation of past disasters, particularly earthquakes and tsunami, can be utilized to improve modern disaster management.
Another integral matter relating to disasters is heritage, be it cultural or natural. Heritage around the world is exposed to numerous risks resulting from disasters, both natural and those with a human agent. In the past few years the world has witnessed the intentional destruction of heritage due to war, and even more tragically, Japan lost whole communities and their associated histories and heritage in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami in Tohoku. Every loss makes us appreciate again the meaning of heritage, which includes intangibles, as well as community and culture. Contemporary disasters require from archaeologists unprecedented recovery management methods, technologies, and collaboration. During catastrophes, archaeologists and heritage managers are suddenly faced by a concurrence of serious issues that create both challenges to their field and opportunities for further development of it.
At WAC-8 sessions under this theme we will tackle ‘disasters’ from different angles. Session participants will assemble and share wisdom for our future.
Lila Janik (University of Cambridge), Peter J Matthews, (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan), Sahoko Aki (Independent Artist) and Kenichi Yano (Ritsumeikan University)
Artistic expression is one of the unique attributes of Homo sapiens that can be traced over a hundred thousand years. How did the creative ability to produce music, visual art or body performance develop in prehistoric and historic cultures? To interpret material culture in terms of artistic object production, use, display and appreciation, contemporary archaeologists employ modern scientific methods, diverse theoretical standpoints, and collaborative exploration with practicing artists.
Intangible performances ‘captured’ in ancient rock art give us insights into long forgotten dance practices or seasonal celebrations. Preserved instruments, past depictions, and scientific analyses of sound provide an aural dimension to otherwise silent archaeological enquiry. Synergies between the creative, scientific and interpretive can cut across or focus on the visual, musical, performance and other arts. These are all topics we invite for consideration by session organisers.
Alongside the archaeology-focused presentations, we invite practicing artists to join the academic sessions or contribute through exhibition or performance. We hope these collaborations will bring new dimensions to the academic sessions, with participating artists using archaeological methods to explore the world, or deriving inspiration from working with archaeologists and scientific views on the past. Sessions may also focus on artists and archaeologists working together to transform the broken pieces of history into public perceptions of the past and archaeological enquiry. One challenge of the theme is to involve archaeologists and artists in equal measure, in order to freely discover relationships between art and archaeology, and to create opportunities for unexpected synergies.
Artistic and academic presentations will be made in local, small-scale settings within the old urban quarters of Kyoto. The exhibitions, performances, and academic presentations will be hosted in temple environments and mid-town landscapes, outside the main conference venue. Participants in these sessions will enjoy a rich experience of Kyoto, while also exploring the interactions between Art and Archaeology.
Friedrich Schipper (University of Vienna)
The WAC community has dealt with the theme of the destruction of cultural heritage during armed conflict at least for the past two congresses (Dublin and the Dead Sea) as well as three inter-congresses (Ramallah, Vienna and Rome). In the meanwhile, it has become a permanent topic of academic discourse. As a result of this intensive and sometimes controversial process, WAC has recently adopted a new accord: “The WAC Accord on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” or, for short “The Dead Sea Accord”. This is a milestone. But what next?
At the base of the Dead Sea Accord is the belief that culture, including knowledge, history, traditions, language, adaptations, technology, art, literature, architecture and material culture – in short, both portable and non portable, both tangible and intangible – is a basic human right. WAC’s focus on the protection of material culture as a subcategory of culture makes it clear that human life is always a priority. But this does not discount the significance of material culture – rather it makes the connection between humans and all aspects of their culture very clear. Meanwhile, the destruction of cultural heritage in armed conflict has turned to a renaissance of iconoclasm beyond all legal and ethical norms. Prominent representatives of civil society publicly label this destruction as a war crime or crime against humanity. And the current events worldwide demonstrate the interdependence between ethnic and cultural cleansing.
As a community, we, our discussions, our papers and our accords are at the cutting edge of contemporary controversy and ethics. At upcoming WAC-8 we will again strive for engaging a broad range of questions, including philosophical, ethical, juridical, humanitarian, social, sociological, psychological, humanistic, historical, religious, cultural, economic, political, and military aspects in order to face the new reality, dimension and nature of cultural heritage destruction and to define our role and tasks as a scientific community in helping to protect what we try to explore.