After presenting an overview last year, I’m really excited to say that my article on “The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record” has been published in European Journal of Archaeology (EJA). The EJA has an interesting feature that allows you to access the final published version online in read-only format (not available for download). I’ve also put the accepted version of the manuscript on the usual forums, including ResearchGate, and if you want a Word version to use with document readers, please email me.
The gist of my argument is that I believe archaeology can change the world for the better through its inherent and highly distinctive capacity to generate wonder and enchantment among human beings.
As I summarise, there is a vast amount of evidence that robustly demonstrates these transformative potentials and their specific individual, local and broader impacts. There is also ample evidence on how exactly we might create situations that prime people for enchanting experiences.
Yet for the most part we aren’t applying this knowledge – or aren’t applying it well and critically. Where it is done, it’s almost always in relation to non-specialist public engagement. This misses the point that engagement activities grow out of primary data collection and interpretation, so if these primary practices are disenchanted, disenchanting, or otherwise devoid of affect, secondary efforts to engage people are far less likely to succeed to their full potential (if at all).
How do we ‘do’ enchantment?
I believe we can deliberately weave affective practices into all aspects of our archaeological methodologies and project designs, therein offering us a more contextual and dynamic model for doing, recording, interpreting, publicising and archiving archaeology.
This is not necessarily an easy or straightforward task, but I think we’ve proven it can work in terms of:
- nurturing more rich higher-order interpretation amongst archaeologists,
- and facilitating meaningful dialogue about complex issues related to the distant past.
We are now investigating how we can revise typical recording tools (e.g., context sheets, photo logs), and archiving practices/infrastructure (e.g., metadata and descriptions, thesauri, ontologies) to fuel and support these enchantment efforts. Various initiatives are planned in the upcoming year or so – please stay tuned, and if you are willing to be involved, please do let me know.
I would like to send a massive THANK YOU to the editors of this particular issue of the EJA: Marta Díaz-Guardamino, Colleen Morgan, and Cate Frieman. I have never had a more positive, constructively thought-provoking review experience. The approach that these editors took in terms of whoever they recruited for my anonymous peer reviews, led me to feel some renewed hope for a process that I otherwise find mostly broken and disenchanting. My anonymous reviewers enabled me to think differently (rather than discouraging me from thinking), and this has helped to provide further inspiration. For instance, we’re involved in a lot of exciting things right now for EMOTIVE, including a VR experience, a dialogical experience with 3d replica artefacts, a group-based audio experience, and a study of culturally-specific responses to affect. More soon – and follow some of these adventures on Twitter or Instagram.
As a closing note, there are some wonderful papers in this issue of EJA, and I feel that Katherine Cook’s piece, “EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies”, gets at the crux of one of the issues that has severely affected our efforts at enchantment; namely, risk. Setting in place the measures to care for people – to ensure that any burden of risk is distributed – and to ensure institutions themselves invest in genuine structural change to support affective and inclusive practices (rather than obliging individuals or small-scale, time-limited projects to assume total responsibility for experimenting with these practices) is crucial. Cook offers some ideas on what is at stake and how we might negotiate risk, which really resonated with me.
Anyway, I appreciate your constructive criticism on my article if you’d be willing to share it.
The full reference is: Perry, Sara (2019) The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record. European Journal of Archaeology 22(3), 354-371.