Call for Papers: “The Role of Political and Epistemological History in the Archaeology of the Former Soviet Union” Theoretical Archaeological Group, Deadline: February 25

Call for Papers

Theoretical Archaeology Group 2010
Friday, April 30th to Sunday, May 2nd, 2010
Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
Session: The Role of Political and Epistemological History in the Archaeology of the Former Soviet Union

Since the collapse of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) the number of foreign archaeologists working in the Balkans, Eastern-Europe, and Central Asia has steadily increased. Though the former ‘great unknown’ is now more accessible than ever, several issues have come to the fore as significant impediments to conducting collaborative or comparative research. Foremost among these are ontological issues associated with the prevalence of the culture-historical paradigm and ethnos theory as applied in Soviet archaeology and ethnography. The legacy of this research paradigm leaves current political and social boundaries as deterrents to comparative archaeological research.

In many parts of the FSU the prehistoric past is key to the development of contemporary boundaries and national pride. Archaeologists are well placed, however, to analyze the fluidity of such boundaries, doing research that must often cross shifting political, social, and linguistic borders in order to be comprehensive. Though typically archaeologists do not treat the politics of their field in publications, a keen awareness of contemporary and historical identity politics and archaeological practices is a necessary prerequisite to an understanding of material cultural assemblages.

Several themes deriving from the Soviet and post-Soviet culture-historical paradigm, along with destructive data collection and a general dismissal of theory are often critiqued by western scholars. Yet, these same scholars can be unfamiliar with the idiom and historiography of the archaeology of the FSU, often due to still lingering linguistic barriers. Thus, they are in turn criticized for their superficial understanding of the area’s corpus of material-culture and historiography and their broad generalizations about theoretical orientation. This often places the two archaeological traditions at odds when it comes to field methodology, collaborative grant writing or publication, and even museum research.

Papers are invited, which discuss the historical and contemporary influences on archaeological research in the area of the FSU and their effect, both past and present, especially as regards politics and epistemology. Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by February 25th to either smartino@sas.upenn.edu or nefremov@artsci.wustl.edu

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