Widening Horizons in Kiel

Liliana Matias de Carvalho participated in the 27th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) (Online, 6-11 September) with two oral presentations:

  1. Infant stress, morbidity, and age-at-death in three rural and semi-rural Portuguese medieval necropolises (Coimbra, Soure, and Leiria), authored by Liliana Matias de Carvalho, and Sofia N. Wasterlain
  2. The caretaker and the military: women with their own agency in a military hospital environment in modern Lisbon, authored by Liliana Matias de Carvalho, Susana Henriques, Ana Amarante, and Sofia N. Wasterlain

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The first presentation took place on the 8th of September, in the session “Bioarchaeology of Health, Lifestyle and Social Change in the Later Middle Ages”. Skeletal and molecular analysis are providing ever more powerful tools for investigating aspects of medieval society which historical records tell us little about. This symposium displays the range of modern studies, highlighting the productive nature of bringing together different kinds of data interdisciplinarily and the gains to be made by deep social contextualisation of bioarchaeological results. This session showcases current research at the convergence of social history and bioarchaeology, for the later Middle Ages (from around 900 AD through about 1500) in Europe. The range of topics is great. Contributions may focus upon epidemics such as the Black Death and their social consequences; genetic profiles of medieval populations and their implications for kinship and mobility; diet and its social differentiation; human-pathogen coevolution; the biological correlates of social patterns such as gender, class and religious identity; aspects of daily life such as the organisation of work, social practices of violence, and hidden aspects of religious practice; and the osteobiographical narratives of ordinary people.

The second presentation took place on the 11th of September, during the session “The Place of Queer Theory in Current Archaeological Debates: All T, No Shade?”. Some 25 years ago, queer theory emerged as a field of critical theory. Building upon feminist and gay/lesbian deconstructions of essentialist understandings of gender and sexual identity and their consequences, it found its way into archaeological debates in the 1990s and early 2000s. Most of the pioneering work done under the umbrella term “queer archaeology” focused on deconstructing heteronormative assumptions about the past, or on investigating past understandings of sex and gender which may have differed from modern heteronormative sex/gender bind. Few other topics were extensively debated, leading some critics to dismiss “queer archaeology” as being limited to the search for same-sex practitioners in the past. Three decades later, archaeological debates are more or less dominated by postcolonial approaches (subalterns; creole; hybridity; mimicry; third space), by the so called “third science revolution” (aDNA; stable isotopes; big data; large funding) and by the ontological turn (non-human agency; entanglement; cosmological perspectivism). Outside of academia we are witnessing rises in nationalism, racism, and homophobia. Gender studies are under attack for being ideological, and relevant academic programmes are being shut down. Scientific racism plays a role in these developments. If the crucial characteristic of queer theory is its instability and its potential to constantly re-invent itself in response to changing definitions of normativity, then its use for archaeology should be equally re-invented. The aim of this AGE (Archaeology and Gender in Europe) session is to reflect on how queer theory in archaeology can contribute to other questions than those related to LGBT and situate the role of queer theory in current archaeological debates, to ask what is normal in these debates, how this norm came to exist and who is excluded or oppressed by this normality. We invite all contributions which investigate normal and abnormal archaeologies and pasts in the vast network of modern states, capitalism, neo-colonialism, heteronormativity and homonationalism.

Widening Horizons in Kiel

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