Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
My current book project investigates the politics, ethics, and methodologies of doing archaeological fieldwork in the Middle East today, at the very critical moment of global ecological crisis, climate change, military conflict, mass immigration, and heritage violence. The debate around the ecological crisis is not simply a scientific debate, but now concerns every living being on the planet, therefore it has become a political and cultural debate. Historians and archaeologists are asked to revise their methodologies in writing the cultural and political history of the planet. My project draws on the literature in the emerging fields of environmental humanities and political ecology and attempts to rethink archaeological fieldwork. How should archaeologists work in the field in such precarious times? The recent military violence in the Middle East led to unprecedented destruction of cultural heritage along with local settlements and habitats, and the displacement of their communities. The ecological-military crisis has a direct impact on how archaeology is practiced as a field science. The destruction of heritage sites, landscapes, and institutions demands archaeologists either work remotely or to perform salvage work, as opposed to the more conventional methods of working with scientific research questions. Based on my analysis of ongoing archaeological projects in the Middle East, I argue that archaeological field practice has largely become a salvage operation. What does it mean to practice fieldwork in such a tense present and what new kinds of sensitivities are required for an archaeology in the new age of the Anthropocene?
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Kearns, Catherine; 2017. “Mediterranean archeology and environmental histories in the spotlight of the Anthropocene” History Compass 15.10: 1-15.