Theoretical Archaeology Group, Chicago: May 9-11, 2013

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Theme and Call for papers

The Theoretical Archaeology Group began in the U.K. in 1979 as gathering of archaeologists interested in exploring the intersection of archaeology with frontiers in critical theory, philosophy, and anthropology. Since that time, an annual meeting has been held in the U.K. A sibling branch was established in Scandinavia in 2000. In 2008, the TAG-USA group was formed and an inaugural conference held at Columbia University. The conference has grown each year and now provides a vibrant link between American and European archaeologists. TAG conferences have sparked some of the most inventive archaeological articles published in venues such as Archaeological Dialogues, Antiquity, and Social Archaeology. Each year, a different institution takes responsibility for organizing the conference and serving as primary host. Shannon Lee Dawdy of the Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, serves on the national board and, with colleague François Richard, has committed to organizing the 2013 meeting in Chicago.

2013 Theme: "Vision"

Inspired by the venue of Chicago, a forcefully planned city shaped by the vision of Daniel Burnham and his political allies that prides itself on the visual assets of its modernist architecture and public art collections, as well as its ability to forecast the economy through the futures market, the theme for 2013 is "Vision." Vision can be taken to include:

The theme will form the basis of a conversation initiated by the plenary session but participants are urged to interpret it generously and sessions will not be limited by subject. In its broadest sense, Vision represents a birds-eye view of where archaeology is headed, the vista that TAG attempts to provide through its now world-wide conferences.

Call for Papers

Deadline for session proposals will be January 1st 2013. To propose a session, submit an abstract and title through the form on the registration page. After January 1st a list of accepted sessions will be posted on this website. To submit a paper for a session, contact the organizers of the session directly by email by March 1st 2013. Session organizers will be responsible for sending a list of their accepted papers and abstracts to TAG organizers by email by March 7th.



Registration will open on Nov 1st. Please check back after that date.

Early Bird Rates: students/unwaged - $50, waged - $75.

After April 15th 2013: students/unwaged - $75, waged - $125.


Plenary and Program


To submit a paper abstract (max 300 words) please email the session organizers directly. Session organizers are responsible for selecting papers, and for sending the complete session roster along with all paper abstracts and titles to the TAG-Chicago committee by March 15, 2013. Session organizers are also responsible for ensuring that all their participants (including discussants) are registered by March 15.

Session Abstracts and Organizer Emails

The Seen and the Unseen: visibility and vision in the landscape

Western thought tends to separate visions of “reality” (that pertaining to the physical sense of sight) from visions of the ‘invisible world’ or the world of dreams. An alternate ontological perspective suggests a merging of these ‘realities’ (at least in the study of non-Western societies) is more applicable when focusing on the interrelatedness of experience, time and place. This symposium explores the multi-dimensional realities of dream-visions – visions which entail interactions with other-than-human persons (e.g., Aboriginal Dreaming Time, “vision quests”, religious visions, etc.) and how these visions help narrate, create, and change the physical and imagined landscape. We are particularly interested in the recursive relationships between people and their constructed/narrated landscape as informed by their vision(s). These relationships and engagements include human and non-human agents of the visible and ‘invisible’ worlds (including the visual media of objects, buildings, rock art, as well as the at-times-invisible forces of nature).

In this symposium, we investigate the implications of the seen and the unseen, including the power relations of visibility/invisibility, as well as how people’s relationships are informed through the visible landscape and a landscape made visible through dream-vision. The structure of this symposium would incorporate both presentations and a discussion after the presentations. A three hour time slot would be adequate for six papers and a discussion following these papers. Each paper should be between 15-20 minutes in length. The discussion would fill the last hour of the session and would encourage a dialogue among the presenters and the audience.

Organizers: Sarah Baires ( and Melissa Baltus (

Envisioning Time and Imagining Place in Pre-Columbian Landscapes

In this session, and in the spirit of the TAG 2013 theme of “vision”, we explore the envisioning of time across Pre-Columbian landscapes. A perusal of recent archaeological work reveals innovative research into the complex relationship between visions of time and place and archaeological practice. This scholarship has included reflection and careful reassessment of archaeological visual heuristics. For instance, some researchers have explored how visual representations of time highlight the unintentional homogenizing impact of temporal “horizons”. Others have generated exciting new understandings of the past through a careful re-viewing of early stratigraphic profiles, generating new, dynamic and empirically rich imaginings of place. We invite contributions from scholars whose work, whether in North, Central or South America, probes this relationship between time, space and archaeological practice. This work might include the historical legacy of archaeological approaches to visualizing and interpreting indigenous temporalities, new approaches to social memory, and considerations of unique historicities in pre-Columbian landscapes. How might innovative ways of looking at stratigraphic deposition and landscape / taskcape formation allow for an appreciation of indigenous creations of time whether social, monumental, cyclical, astronomical, commemorative, and so forth? To what extent does the archaeological practice of parceling time (the “making of time” through chronology building) obscure the historically-specific temporal practices and conceptual schemes that shaped diverse Pre-Columbian landscapes? Session participants are encouraged to explore a range of approaches - whether new technologies, such as geographic information systems, or theoretical frameworks, such as phenomenology and time perspectivism – to investigate how time was variably materialized, measured, experienced and politicized in the pre-Columbian Americas. Papers submitted to this session should aim to be no more than 20 minutes in length in order to allow time for questions and group discussion.

Organizers: Edward Swenson, Andrew Roddick, and Giles Spence Morrow (

Archaeology in the Anthropocene

Until recently we thought we were living in the Holocene epoch. But now some earth scientists argue that we may have moved into a more unstable geological epoch, characterised by human impact on planetary systems. Though not yet formally accepted into geological time-frames, the Anthropocene has become one of the hottest topics of interdisciplinary debate, with relevance to some of the most difficult and pressing problems facing human beings today (population growth, climate change, extinction of species, pollution of sea and air, overexploitation of resources, etc).

The Anthropocene arguably has positive as well as negative aspects. If Earth systems are seen as humanly wrought, then designs to terra-form, climate-shape, hydro-engineer and geo-transform are encouraged. The very word ‘Anthropocene’ (anthropo=human and cene=new) controversially foregrounds human agency as more powerful than geological or other natural forces in shaping the Earth today.

Archaeology could have a major role to play here. If the Anthropocene has objective reality, a material record of it must exist in the stratigraphic sequences, material residues and artefact assemblages that constitute archaeological evidence. Does the proposed new epoch have a distinctive stratigraphy? What are the principal artefacts/structures/markers of the Anthropocene? At which scales are material phenomena of the Anthropocene manifested? Can these be recognised in soil boundaries or other traditional kinds of evidence? Or should we also be looking into orbital space, virtual realities, nano-materials and other recently opened up domains of human activity? Archaeologists of contemporary and recent pasts in particular will find much to engage and contend with in the idea of the Anthropocene.

The question posed by the session is - how do archaeologists see their role in formulating, shaping, questioning, challenging or reworking the idea of the Anthropocene? Format: 15-20 minute papers, followed by an extended period of open discussion.

Organizer: Matt Edgeworth (

Making the “Invisible” Visible in Plural Sites and Communities

The historical archaeology of marginal people has developed a very high profile. However, even though the field’s methods, concepts, and theories have become more insightful and sophisticated, one important area remains under theorized. This is the issue of identifying the signatures of the diverse people who lived and labored in the many plural households and communities that minority people knew and built. In large part, researchers rely on spaces and sites which isolated marginal communities, so that the recovered archaeological remains can be confidently attributed to them. In exchange for this clarity, archaeologists tend to ignore other spaces and sites, and thus leave the record of marginal people incomplete.

This session invites researchers to present a 20 minute paper that contributes to a dialogue centered on theory in the archaeology of the marginal and minority people in plural contexts so as to help bring all the people who created sites into view. In this sense, we interpret the theme of this conference—“vision”—as the archaeological imagination for creating counter narratives about the past. Some questions that may be considered include: What is the actual evidence of a cultural and social plurality within past households and communities? How can this evidence be reviewed to identify patterns of the diverse people who created the archaeological record Can we use traditional “ethnic markers” to identify marginal people within plural contexts, or do other methods need to be developed? Do specific activities or material culture patterns provide any routes to recovering persons hidden by slavery, racism, social class, and power? What perspectives have already been used in historical and anthropological research on marginal people in plural contexts? Does whiteness studies provide any insight on how to conceive and recover the plurality that whiteness often conceals?

Organizers: Bradley Phillippi ( and Christopher Matthews (

The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art

As a prelude to the Museum of Contemporary Art's upcoming exhibition "The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art" curated by Dieter Roelstraete, this session will bring together a panel of thinkers and practitioners from the arts and archaeology to explore issues arising from the exploration of the interstitial space between art and archaeology. Beyond a shared disciplinary history within art history and antiquarianism, art and archaeology share sensibilities around approaches to material, time, process, performance, liveness, assemblage, fragmentation, decomposition, reconstruction, archive, and representation. Both order things in specific, intentioned ways, creating conditions of possibility for making meaning and sense in the world. Over the last two decades, there has been increasing symmetry between art and archaeology. Within archaeology, scholars and practitioners such as Colin Renfrew (1999; 2005 also see Renfrew et al 2004), Michael Shanks (1991; also see Shanks & Pearson 2001), Tim Ingold (2011; 2007), Ruth Tringham (2007; 2009) and Doug Bailey (2005; 2008), amongst others, have undertaken substantive work exploring the possibilities of a mingling of archaeological and artistic practices. Within contemporary art, there has been a symmetrical interest in archaeological, and more broadly historical, practices (both in aesthetic form, conceptual intent, and epistemological process) as they relate to growing movements in contemporary arts practice around concerns about art as research and research as art - responding to a shared moment, rife with anxiety about remembering that which is threatened by forgetting, revealing that which has been committed to oblivion, liberating and empowering through that which is marginalized by disappearance, and narrating and visualizing the past as an act of resistance. Format: Panel discussion. Initiated by a series of short position papers followed by roundtable discussion.

Organizers: Ian Alden Russell ( and Dieter Roelstraete

Colonial Vision

Colonial vision is intended to include both the idea of intended outcomes of colonial endeavors as well as the perception of colonists in terms of their identity in the colonial sphere. Therefore, we will examine how forethought of colonial interaction affects actual behavior and how this can be interpreted from the archaeological record. Why did colonial actors choose to interact? How did this interaction unfold? Who participated and how did this affect the community as a whole? As a result of this interaction, how did colonization affect the way colonists identified themselves, natives, or those who interbred between these groups? How does hybridization of people and materials play out in colonial spheres? In this session, participants should look to present ideas on how the unique circumstance of colonization influences behavior and social constructs. Ideally, this will include comparison between both Old World and New World contexts. The format of this discussion should include short presentations of papers followed by a round-table discussion. Ideally there will be 5-6 presenters who will present 10-15 minute papers with questions held for the round-table following the presentations.

Organizer: Ivy Faulkner (

Archaeology and/of Ecology

For millennia our forebears lived with other forms of life under intimate compacts, exchanging companionship, sustenance, and microbial symbionts. Yet, in the last two centuries, over the course of just a few generations, the majority of humans on the planet have left behind a livelihood where interactions with horses, cattle, chickens, or pigs were routine, and moved to one where encounters with fellow animals, except for pets, are infrequent or nonexistent. More than half of all humans now live in cities and our former animal companions have followed a similar shift. The mass exodus from the backyard or the barnyard to animal cities, such as industrial farms and stockyards, has led to new ecological burdens, mass killings in meat factories, poorer nutrition, and new hotbeds for the next pandemic. What happens when most humans no longer live in intimate daily relations with other animals and the healthy microbial ecologies of these ways of life cannot be sustained in their former ways?

This session wonders at what archaeology and history have to contribute to a broad conversation concerning symbiotic relationships over the very long term, questions of microbial ecology and exchange, as they affect issues of companionship, nutrition and livelihood, and environmental sustainability among organisms, including human communities, within their immediate ecosystems. The session will consist of six 30 minute sections where participants present an intervention (15 - 20 minutes) followed immediately by discussion (10 - 15 minutes).

Organizers: Bruce Clarke and Christopher Witmore (

Gender and Leadership

It has been assumed that men were leaders in the past, while evidence of leaders who were women has often been ignored or even denied in some cases, because women are not supposed to be leaders in dominant Western gender ideology. Men’s hierarchical conceptions of power as command and control traditionally dominated theorizing about leadership.

In the late 20th century feminists noticed and wrote about women’s different style of more democratic affiliative leadership, which was found to be more effective in business management than men’s hierarchical style. Some feminist theorizing connected gendered differences in leadership style with deeply embedded gender schemas that praise authoritarian men as decisive leaders, while decrying similar leadership by women as “bossy,” of “unfeminine.” The clear implication of this common name-calling is that only men are supposed to be bosses or leaders. The desired effect is to put women in their proper subordinate place under the supervision of men.

Gender ideologies and women’s and men’s leadership styles varied among past cultures, including changes in the last few hundred years in Western cultures, showing that current gender ideology is not fixed, universal, or unitary. Papers in this symposium contribute case studies comparing and contrasting women’s and men’s leadership in the past to address some of the following questions about leadership. Was women’s leadership in the past different from men’s leadership? If so, how and where? How did different gender ideologies in other cultures support or inhibit women’s leadership? Did elite women’s class supercede their gender, making them more accepted as leaders than lower class women? How were Western gender ideologies changed in the last few hundred years to make women’s leadership more acceptable? How did women and/or men create alternative Western gender ideologies that supported women’s leadership? How were gender ideologies materially symbolized and implemented? How is women’s leadership visible in the archaeological record? Does it differ from evidence of men’s leadership in different cultures? Can women’s leadership be archaeologically ascertained without documents? How can feminists critically read historical documents to infer women’s and men’s leadership when it is not directly identified? 20 minute papers followed by 10 minutes discussion each and 30 minute discussion at the end.

Organizer: Suzanne Spencer-Wood (

Seeing is Doing

One of the primary ways that archaeologists learn and communicate is through tactile or at least visual contact with an object. In a sense, that makes them all visual learners. No ceramicist would argue that one could truly understand the pottery of an area without literally coming to grips with it. The feel and confirmation of the visual properties of an object, with our own eyes can tell us more about an artifact assemblage than simply looking through thousands of drawings or even photos. Yet, as with all vision, your impression of an artifact is inherently subjective. Even the best draftsman may not produce the most ideal drawing of an artifact and photographs often leave one with a flattened representation. So what is the key to being a good archaeological illustrator? Moreover, does the difference in one's scholarly background, regionally, chronologically, or even by sub-field affect one's drawing of an object? Lastly, how essential are the ceramic drawings and photographs in a publication? We all inherently see the value, but what can words not get across that a drawing or photograph can?

In this session I am proposing to take an experimental step towards answering these questions. For a three hour period or perhaps even on and off for six hours, on the first day of sessions, I would like to invite archaeologists of all backgrounds to sketch and textually describe a sherd; of course, all the equipment would be provided. The long time frame would allow for many participants. Each archaeologist would also fill out a brief survey describing their scholarly background.

At the end of the day these drawings and descriptions could be gathered, posted, and then, using a computer program to look at keywords in the descriptions, these keywords could be compared to the backgrounds of the archaeologists and their final sketches to see how their background may have affected their drawing style and what they viewed as the most important aspects of their drawing and description. Then on the second day of sessions, a preliminary report of the findings could be given to cap off the session.

Organizers: Shannon Martino ( and Matthew Martino

“Double” Visions: Archaeological Engagements with Alcohol

In Chicago – a city synonymous with bootlegging mobsters and flapper-filled speakeasies – we invite archaeologists to consider the potent potables that have defined so much of the human past, both in their presence and ‘absence’ in the materials we study. In this vein, we invite participants to consider how the significance of an act of drinking might be tied to the (in)visibility of the setting in which it is produced or consumed. Does (in)visibility play a part in whether acts surrounding alcohol production and consumption are considered social or anti-social, legal or illegal? What factors push the production and/or consumption of alcohol to alter in relation to (in)visibility? How does this material (in)visibility manifest in the records (both archaeological and documentary) that we deal with in our research? How have considerations of alcohol consumption and production entered into visions of ideal futures and golden pasts from deep antiquity up through the present? What ambiguities and paradoxes are present in these questions of the (in)visibility of alcohol in the past, present, and future– and what can be revealed in teasing out such “double” visions?

Topics that could be considered in addressing these questions include, but are not limited to:

Format: 6 15-minute presentations interspersed with “round robin” comments of 5 minutes from assigned session participants, with time for a final discussant and open questions. If it proves feasible, we would like to coordinate an optional Chicago-sourced whiskey and/or beer tasting during a brief intermission towards the end of the session.

Organizers: Megan E. Edwards ( and Rebecca S. Graff (

Disciplinary DiVisions

Even when studying the same material object, scholars of different disciplines may view it via various methodological lenses and particular theoretical foundations that lead to entirely unique synthetic apprehensions of the object. The light and lenses that illuminate the object may not be the same from every side, rendering the object’s appearance seemingly changeable. Light, for example, is a complex phenomenon whose nature has been debated from the scientific revolution onward, with each philosopher of optics altering our conception of light through new understandings and new questions: Does a light particle travel instantaneously to our eyes from the source? Does light have a constructive, active function in the universe? Could it really be that light comes to us by movement impressed upon matter between the luminous body and our eyes? The “true” relationship between appearance and essence, perception and reality, is no less complex now than it was during the scientific revolution. Questions about the nature of light remain relevant, particularly as a metaphor for TAG 2013’s examination of vision, for what is vision but the reception—and perception—of images of ‘the real’? Just as philosophers asked about the synthetic power of perception, we invite scholars of material culture to consider the synthetic value of their theoretical foundations, and to question how their disciplinary methods act upon their objects of study—whether to illuminate, to mediate, to transform, or to create.

This session invites discussion of the diverse disciplinary perspectives through which we view the past as we study it. We seek contributions from scholars who work between disciplines of seeing objects and objects-of-study: art history, archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, to name but a few—and ask them to expound on how disciplinary or epistemological ‘lenses’ shape our inquiries. How do our lenses work to measure, classify, and observe? What is the relationship between datasets and objects, measurable and measured? What effects do these lenses have on syntheses of the final data, that is, on our interpretations? If our disciplinary gaze is faceted, can we only glimpse a kaleidoscopic past? How do multilayered, interdisciplinary approaches reconstitute meaningful wholes from the facets?

The three-hour session will consist of 15-minute presentations followed by a 45-60 minute open roundtable discussion. We request that participants submit papers two weeks prior to the conference for circulation within the session.

Organizers: Kathryn Franklin (, Elizabeth A. Fagan (, and Sarah Kautz (

Think Globally, Act Locally: Envisioning Religious Practice in Local Contexts

The terminology used by scholars to describe local religious practice—“household,” “family,” “popular,” and “private”—is perhaps as variable as religious experience itself. These terms touch upon a range of behaviors and epistemic systems that shaped religious experience in the ancient world: piety, participation in festivals, ancestral rites, and household cultic practices. This session will look specifically at local religious practices in the ancient world. “Local” is here defined as a dynamic spatial category, characterized by its opposition to the religion of “there,” which scholars such as J.Z. Smith have described as “institutionalized” and “codified.” In this way, “local” may describe the material environment of religious practice—for example the household or tomb—or more broadly, a unique, regional manifestation of an institutionalized cult.

This session seeks to discuss how ancient peoples visualized and enacted institutionalized religious behaviors—such as that found in “state” religion—within local settings. Often, these localized embodiments of religion left even fewer vestiges in the historical record than those institutionalized practices that informed them. As such, accessing them demands a multifaceted theoretical approach. Scholars can only attempt to reconstruct these everyday religious practices through ephemeral material remains and rare glimpses of textual evidence. Although these practices were profoundly influenced by the variables of time and geography, we can still find similar phenomena across a number of discrete cultural and temporal contexts. These phenomena include (inter alia): practices of underrepresented household members such as women, slaves, and children; the cult of the dead and family funerary rites; personal piety; participation in festivals; construction of local shrines and cults; the worship of deified dead; magic; divination; and household cults. By employing religious and archaeological theory, we can bridge these cultural, geographic, and temporal divides and engage in a cohesive discussion of “local” religion.

This hour and a half session will consist of four (4) papers slotted at 15 minutes, with 5 minutes of discussion following each paper. Please email your 300 word abstract to Julia Troche or Bryan Brinkman at by March 1, 2013 to be considered.

Organizers: Julia Troche and Bryan Brinkman

Writing to be seen: epigraphy and graffiti as a visual form

The study of inscriptions and graffiti often focuses on content and the use of the written word as a primary historical source. This is particularly true of the ancient world where inscriptions often provide the only written sources and the use of compendia such as CIL and IGLS promote this view. The visual form of the inscription can be relegated to simply a tool for dating. However, inscriptions and graffiti were meant to be seen as well as read. The visual impact and style of an inscription is an important element in understanding the context in which it was set up.

This session seeks to explore inscriptions and graffiti as a visual form rather than a purely written one. The three-hour session will consist of six papers of 25 minutes duration with an extended discussion period at the end. The session will aim to cover a number of different time periods and regions to promote a broad discussion and so papers from a variety of different sub disciplines of archaeology and anthropology are sought.

Organizer: Simone Paturel (

Sharing a View, Sharing a Vision: Collaboration and Modern Methodology

In this session, we consider collaboration with stakeholder communities and/or other archaeologists to be integral to modern methodology. In today's field, archaeologists have access to a wide variety of methodologies and specialities in new tools and technologies. As we discover new information about the ways people used landscapes in the past, modern technology enables us to share this information and to work collaboratively with other specialists, researchers, and stakeholders around the world. Archaeologists and their collaborators have access to shared views of many forms of information about the past, from digital captures of microscopic plant cells, to scanned documents and georeferenced historic maps. Current technology has made it possible for us to globally share and digitally preserve these views for future generations. By teaching future generations to use and develop modern methodologies, we can also ensure that objects and places of the past will be protected. Overall, modern methodologies provide new ways to visualize old landscapes.

Organizers: Alexandra Martin ( and Jessica Herlich (

Visualizing the Islamic Landscape

The purpose of this three-hour session would be to examine how the landscape of the Islamic world was visualized. The Islamic conquest of the 7th century had a significant impact on the history of the Spain, north Africa, the Near East, Caucasia, and Central Asia, uniting all these disparate areas into one large empire. These areas were inhabited by a variety of different ethnic and religious groups, including not only the Arab conquerors, but also the local populations. The Islamic conquest meant that the landscapes of the regions that they conquered became transformed through the construction of new cities such as Baghdad and monuments, including mosques. As time progressed, however, the empire became fractured into independent and semi-independent states, some of which remained under Islamic control, but it was no longer a single united entity. Further, new groups, such as a Mongols and Turks, also played an important role in shaping the Islamic world. The way that modern scholars view Islamic archaeology and monuments has also helped shaped our understanding of this landscape. All of this points to the diversity and variety of the Islamic landscapes and this session seeks to understand how the imprint of Islamic culture, religion, and civilization can be observed on the landscape archaeologically.

This session encourages different approaches to visualizing the Islamic landscape in various time periods and regions. These different approaches could include GIS and satellite imagery, phenomenology of monuments, and settlement patterns. Just as the Islamic world is a diverse one, this session seeks to a variety of approaches for understanding this complex landscape. In addition, it is important to see the impact of modern historical discourse on our understanding of these landscapes. Not only has the Islamic period often been neglected by archaeologists who have studied other periods, the methodological approaches to studying the different regions within the Islamic empire also impact how we understand these landscapes. Therefore, this session will shed light on not only how Islamic archaeology is viewed by different scholars but also on how these scholars understand and define landscapes of the Islamic period.

The session would be organized into lectures by the various participants and then followed by a conclusion that provides an overview of how the different participants visualized the Islamic landscape. Discussion of the different papers and other issues related to Islamic landscapes will be encouraged.

Organizer: Tasha Vorderstrasse (

Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough: Does Archaeology Still Need ‘Subsistence'?

In spite of post-structuralist moves in anthropology to pursue more sociological analyses of economic life, the category of “subsistence,” derived from more evolutionary conceptions of human production, continues to frame discussion of political economics, ancient and modern. Its entrenchment was recently reinforced through efforts by Yale University’s “Human Relations Area Files” cultural database to provide users the ability to sort entries in terms of “subsistence strategies”—soon it will be possible to select between nine different types of subsistence, including “other subsistence combinations.” Dividing human production into that which feeds and nourishes and “the rest,” “subsistence” introduces a rupture between the production necessary for survival and that which is the result of and impetus to sociocultural and political machinations. Often glossed as subsistence “strategies” to emphasize the efficient ecological adaptation or cultural specificity of production activity, such conceptions depend on decontextualizing consumption by human bodies from broader economic life, regardless of the perceived simplicity or complexity of the practices in question (e.g.: hunter/gatherer survival vs. redistribution of foodstuffs by Mesopotamian city-states).

What use then, if any, does subsistence retain for archaeologists as currently theorized? This session will analyze the “subsistence” concept and its role in contemporary archaeological analysis, exploring productive ways to reclaim or reject its application through case studies drawn from a variety of research settings. We intend to problematize the distinction between the production that satisfies stomachs and that which satisfies social obligations, replacing such logics with analytic approaches that study material production, distribution, and consumption within the broader sociopolitical context of their genesis and operation. The 3-hour session will be divided into two parts: each will consist of three 20-minute papers, to be followed by a single discussant paper (20-minutes maximum) and a discussion/response period leading up to the 1.5-hour mark. This structure of punctuated discussion will allow dynamic interaction between presenters, discussants, and audience members. We invite contributions that focus on, but are not limited to: economic (studies examining material production coupled to practices of distribution and consumption), biographical (life history accounts of both objects and subjects), and biological and political ecological (demographic accounts of human, plant, and animal communities) approaches.

Organizers: Hannah Chazin ( and Alan Greene ( Please email abstracts to Alan Green by Friday, March 1.

Open Dialogs in Archaeological Photography

In a discipline that has yet to master the balance between the subject and the object; the human and the thing, photographs can inhabit uniquely limbic and potentially very powerful positions. Photographs provide a tangible middle ground between the observing subject and the observable object, and in so doing, reaffirm both the situatedness of human perspectives and the sovereignty of the material world. Photography’s ability to transcend time and space imbues it with more power still, allowing it to trigger a spectrum of reactions in and effects upon its viewers, all of which both distort and convey meaning. Among other things, photographs can remember, forget, idealize, anesthetize, and democratize (Benjamin 1936; Barthes 1966; Sontag 1977); yet archaeologists have just begun to question the authority, ambiguities and tensions that lie within the photographs we use in our work. This session will address the potential future roles of photography in archaeology: from artifact photography to photographs as artifacts, from documentary photography to art photography (and everything that lies between); how do we stop taking our archaeological "vision" for granted? How might we rethink or renew the practice?

Session Format: I would like to invite archaeological photographers to participate in a uniquely formatted two-part conference session, designed to initiate a dialog between fellow participants and their work. Each participant will submit a cohesive body of photographs in print, for display along with a short (400 words or less) statement of intent explaining their position as a photographer and the goals of their work (these abstracts will be mounted by the artists work in the gallery space). During the 3hr morning session, presenters will deliver prepared papers and multimedia presentations about their work. In the following 1.5 hr afternoon gallery session, participants will be on hand to discuss their work with fellow participants and visitors.

Organizer: Heather Law Pezzarossi (

Viewpoints for a Critical Archaeology of Time

How is time visualized by archaeologists, and how does this affect our narratives about the past and our practice in the present? This session critically examines archaeological theory and practice as it relates to time and temporality, with a special focus on non-Western archaeologies. Time concepts and time reckoning articulate in intimate ways with group cosmologies, practices, experiences, and expressions. Yet, in archaeology, the linear temporal orientation of our narratives can erase or obscure the possibility of recognition of different constructions and senses of time and their temporal valuations. A critical archaeology of time is increasingly addressing pluritemporal ways of conceptualizing archaeological time. What might non-Western understandings of temporality contribute to the discussion? How do archaeologists recognize others’ time systems? In what ways does knowledge of alternate time systems enrich or alter historical and archaeological narratives? What roles do oral traditions, landscape practices, ritual events, language, genealogies, and sensibilities play in our representations of time in antiquity? How might archaeologists address the contribution of imperialist and capitalist temporalities to archaeologies of the recent past in the context of the colonial encounter? It is hoped that this session will inspire a healthy, problem-oriented debate among archaeologists working in a range of world regions. Session format: 6 presentations (20-minutes each), discussant commentary (20-minutes), Q&A / open discussion (40-minutes)

Organizers: Jonathan Walz ( and Zoe Crossland (

Breaking and Broken: Envisioning Intention and Purpose from Fragments

Broken and fragmented is the principal state of artifacts found in the archaeological record, yet in archaeological analysis fragments are traditionally seen as reflections of the original complete object. Studies of châine operatoire and fragmentation provided biographies of whole objects created within a series of production stages to serve distinct purposes. Broken artifacts, on the other hand, are typically viewed as damaged, beyond repair, at the end of their use life with no further functionality. Aside from accidents or mistakes, the role of human agency and intentionality in object breakage is usually limited to discussions of ritual killing, discard and burial of objects envisioned as no longer viable in the living world. Theoretical studies of craft production, technology, site formation processes, fragmentation, refit, praxis, phenomenology, representation, agency and iconography have shed new light on the relation of intention and purpose to fragments.

This session invites papers that broadly consider intention and purpose related to broken objects from a variety of viewpoints and cultural regions. We seek to develop a vision of stories, roles, interpretations, life-ways, meanings, narratives, reconstructions, uses and reuses at all stages of the breaking and broken. Questions we suggest to be addressed include: How can we determine breakage as intentional? What were broken artifacts' roles for producers and users? Can fragments carry the same or different meanings and powers as the original? How can breaking objects be determined as a symbolic act? Should we always consider unfinished objects in relation to finished objects? How does recycling, re-use and object transformation fit in? Can we truly distinguish between the broken/whole or dead/living objects? Why do we find broken and whole objects together in the same contexts? Should publications and museums privilege complete objects and reconstruct fragments? Further, what ethical issues might underly broken artifacts in relation to cultural heritage? Discussions could include methodological, empirical, theoretical and imaginative ways to interpret and explain breaking and the broken. For this 3-hour session we plan 7 presentations each of 15-20 minutes in length and 30 minutes total of discussion amongst the audience and panel.

Organizers: Ellen Belcher ( and Philipp Rassmann

Double vision: imagines, simulacra, replicas

Archaeology leans heavily on typologies and similarities. Narratives about cultural change, the spreading of ideas and diasporas are often linked to things that look alike but belong to different chronological or geographical frames. Material connections between “centres” and “peripheries” are commonly traced by looking at provincial copies of models irradiated from the metropolis. And yet, despite the longstanding tradition of typological studies and analysis of the meaning of style variation (Wiessner, Sackett, Conkey & Hastorf), the role of imagines, simulacra and replicas in the transmission of culture is still relatively ill-defined from a theoretical point of view in archaeological research.

The papers in this session will explore theoretical approaches to an archaeology of the double and ask questions that help us to go beyond the original model/fake copy dilemma. By interrogating the materiality of the replica we hope to be able to analyse the vision/double as essence and not only as vacuous instance of representation.

Session format: Series of papers followed by Q&A and final comments by a discussant. We particularly welcome papers focusing on:

Organizers: Alicia Jimenez ( and Alfredo Gonzalez-Ruibal (

Seeing, Thinking, Doing: Visualisation as Archaeological Research

Research begins with a series of observations on a site, object, monument or related space as it stands in the present, and leads to the construction of narratives which aim to craft a dialogue between that experience of the real today and the experience of the real in the recent and distant past. Visualisation is a critical methodology in such narrative creation—extending far beyond mere presentation of results into the actual constitution of data and the working and reworking of archaeological ideas. It is a key player, then, in the process of mediating the real. The visual tools we use (both new and old), their interactions with our ways of seeing, and the relationships between these interactions and our experiences on-the-ground — with collaborators, spaces, and other sensory engagements — affect how we do archaeology and conceive of the past. In other words, visual practices are intimately connected to different ways of thinking, and such connections can be (and have long been) exploited to productive effect.

This session seeks to explore such ideas via a session linked across two continents, broadcast online in the form of a series of ten minute papers followed by roundtable discussion. The discussion will be accessible to participants in Chicago, and in the UK at both the University of York and University of Southampton. We welcome short papers introducing different methods of visualisation (including illustration, photography, survey, creative media or computer graphics) or different modes of collaborating visually. Our intention is to nurture a discussion around how vision and imaging impact upon archaeological knowledge creation, shaping our research and the future of our practice.

Organizers: Sara Perry ( and Catriona Cooper (

Envisioning Inequality

Recent economic problems have called particular attention to increasing inequalities in the contemporary world and drawn into focus the rapidity with which new dimensions and degrees of inequality can emerge in society. This dynamism is imbued in the material world, with significant subtle and less subtle visual cues that play active roles in maintaining or changing the balance of power. These materials, broadly construed to include objects themselves, artistic works, physical correlates of performance, landscapes and built environments, subsistence remains, etc., articulate diverse inequalities between numerous social loci (e.g., individuals, genders, ages, families, communities, classes, and larger political formations). As archaeologists, with our interest in diachronic and comparative perspectives, we utilize transformations in both the objects themselves and their use contexts to explore how societies allow inequalities to develop and hold them in check.

This session will focus on the visual referents of emergent and changing inequalities in diverse social settings throughout the world. Cases may range from those based upon more subtle individual or institutionalized daily practices, to more overt visual references of inequality sponsored by actors as they enact political missions.

Session Format: We plan to have a short introductory statement, 4-5 papers on case studies and 10-15 minutes for general discussion. If there is significant interest in the session, we are open to expanding to a double session (provided it works with the conference schedule). A three hour session would include the introductory statement, 7-9 papers, 30-35 minutes of discussion (perhaps with an opening statement), and a 10 minute break midway through the session. The length of papers (15 or 20 minute) will be adapted to session size.

Organizers: Stephen Dueppen ( and Daphne Gallagher (

Archaeology's "Communities of Practice"

When studying ancient people, archaeologists too often forget that they are really studying the communities in which these people lived. Similarly, when archaeologists reflect upon their own discipline, they too often take for granted the communities where much of archaeological knowledge is produced. Practice, in the past and in the present, is irretrievably linked to communities. Etienne Wenger, in his 1998 book Communities of Practice, argues that one could not exist without the other. Archaeologists, however, have yet to theorize “practice” within “communities.” Wenger characterizes the members of a “community of practice” by 1. their mutual engagement, 2. their joint enterprise, and 3. their shared repertoire. This session invites archaeologists to explore the different ways in which “communities of practice” can be productive when theorizing archaeology. Presenters will engage directly with the conceptual tool of “communities of practice” in order to discuss one specific archaeological case study. Examples can range from “communities” in the past to archaeological “practice” in the present. This session assumes that the conceptual tool of “communities of practice” can be productive to reflect upon key themes such as learning, identity, and belonging in the past, as well as questions related to the politics, ethics, and epistemology of archaeological science in the present. What implications come when theorizing “practice” in terms of ancient communities of people and things? What does it mean for archaeologists to reflect upon their discipline as a constellation of “communities” each with their diverse practices?

Organizers: Laurent Dissard ( and Emad Khazraee

Visions of the Past in Eighteenth Century France

The engagement with the material past in eighteenth-century France has been variously visualized through the politics of display implemented at French public and private spaces, from the Louvre, Versailles, Luxembourg and the Palais Royal to the various cabinets of individual collectors and antiquarians. Given the centrality of these various strategies to wider issues of identity, representation, and materiality, the proposed panel of papers seeks to focus upon the antiquarians, collectors, and museums that formulated and conceptualized these engagements with the material past in France.

Each of these individual identities developed in the eighteenth century a very specific set of practices in their approach to the objects they collected, the politics of their display, and the justification for these pursuits: they constructed specific regimes of value deeply embedded within their discursive and material contexts, thus structuring the nature of the objects they collected, contemplated, and preserved.

Each of these individual identities worked, in turn, in opposition and in relation to each other, competing in framing the objects they collected in relation to their own individual priorities. How, for example, did the Louvre take on practices specific to individual collectors, and how did the translation from private collection to museum display transform the object and its display context? How did collectors define their own pursuits in cultural, social, and moral terms, both in relation to the princely pursuits that had hitherto defined collecting in France and the institutions that arose to curate France’s national and artistic past, particularly after the Revolution? How did antiquarians seek to build an engagement of the material traces of antiquity that stood apart from ‘collecting’ as an elite fashionable pursuit and courtly practice, and in turn translated these pursuits into discourses of cultural heritage possessed of far-reaching implications, discourses adapted by the bourgeoning museums that came to culminate in the Louvre and its short-lived predecessor, the Museum of French Monuments?

From the antiquarians to whom the object was metonymic for a lost Classical past, then, to the museums which sought to re-frame the experience of both ‘Art’ and the past, to collectors who operated within courtly competitive networks in building themselves as collectors and connoisseurs, the proposed panel seeks to present a glimpse into the various strategies available to individuals, to specific social identities, to the nation, in formulating and concretizing—through objects—their vision of themselves in relation to the past.

Organizer: Sebastian de Vivo (

The Materiality of Deathscapes

While not a new theoretical concept in general, materiality has recently emerged as a new theoretical paradigm in archaeological theory. Materiality seeks to emphasize the tangible qualities of things presented in processual archaeology from the 1960s to postprocessual archaeology's of the 1970’s. Materiality theory applied to mortuary spaces engages all the qualities of materials left on the burial with how these materials may have been visually linked to mourners and the surrounding landscape. Materiality focuses on the agency of objects themselves and not just on the human agency that created them. This session will explore the usefulness of a materiality approach to understanding the visual landscapes of death or deathscapes. This session will concentrate on three areas of materiality within mortuary spaces (1) the visual representation of material in formation of mortuary material, (2) the engagement of humans, materials and landscapes of death or deathscapes and (3) the visual representation of space and material in the memory forming process. An in-depth exploration will allow for a deeper understanding of human dependency on space and things and their resulting dependency on humans.

Approximately five participants in this session will provide fifteen minute presentations on topics relating to the visual representations of landscape and material within spaces designated for death. A fifteen minute round table discussion will follow presentations to provide an opportunity to share ideas on materiality as an emerging theoretical paradigm and to discuss participant papers.

Organizer: Christina Brooks (

Handmaiden No More: Ethnoarchaeology as an Autonomous Science

This session aims to assess whether ethnoarchaeology might prosper as a distinct branch of anthropology that studies relationships between people and things. Although ethnoarchaeology emerged within processual archaeology as a means to discover covering laws about the material correlates of human behavior, the subsequent four decades have diversified the scope of mainstream ethnoarchaeological research. We invite papers that bravely project what ethnoarchaeology might be in the future and explore its potential to become an autonomous subfield of anthropology based on entirely new premises. We ask contributors to reflect on the benefit of having archaeologists undertake ethnographic research and explore human-object entanglements and mutual constitutions that occur in richly social worlds. How might a reconfigured ethnoarchaeology contribute to a nuanced deployment of anthropological theory in archaeology, or introduce a more critical form of praxis to our assessments of archaeology’s theoretical tools, or bring a new understanding to our studies of objectification?

This session opens a conversation about a new direction for ethnoarchaeology – one that expands its scope beyond the generation of analogues for archaeologists, and recognizes it as the only branch of anthropology that deals specifically with the complex relationships between people and things in ways that are as much or more relevant to our understanding of the present as they are to the past.

This will be a three-hour session devoted to presentations and discussion, with an emphasis on discussion. We will specifically invite a few participants, but we will distribute our proposal widely in the hope of finding the community of similarly minded archaeologists who have not yet had a forum to voice their concerns about and visions for ethnoarchaeology. We encourage participants to explore ethnoarchaeology’s vast potential within anthropology and material culture studies rather than presenting case studies. The first half of the session will be 6-7 invited papers that are 15 minutes in length. The second half of the session will be for discussion.

Organizer: Jerimy Cunningham (, Joanna Casey ( and Diane Lyons (

Visualizing the Unseen

Archaeological practice is inherently the task of visualization, extrapolating from material traces the practices and cultures of the past. This process is sharply illustrated when archaeology reconstructs and visualizes the already unseen, immaterial and intangible. These include complicated concepts such as statehood and power, ephemeral practices such as performance and ritual or sensory experience such as aesthetics and taste. These visualizations take many forms and involve a myriad of techniques and methods ranging from mapping to x-rays, to LIDAR and radar. This process of visualization remains inherently transformative, creating a new object, a pure representation without a definitive referent. This session explores the processes and implications of visualizing the unseen within archaeological interpretation. What does this process of visualization actually create? What are the implications of making the invisible visible? How does this process of visualization affect and inform interpretation?

Organizer: Dianne Scullin (

Negotiating with the Unseen: Anticipatory Strategies’ Unanticipated Consequences

As a mechanism of social agency, vision is archaeologically operationalized to map, gauge and interpret past relationships of power. Much of this conversation assigns omniscience either to those exerting power or to those wishing to resist it. Yet increasing discussions in social theory over the past 20 years stress the socially circumscribed nature of knowledge in space and time as well as limitations in peoples’ ability to assess the implications of their actions. Mapping social change begins with an analysis of peoples’ strategies to negotiate with and anticipate their physical and spiritual worlds and follows through to examine these practices’ consequences at local and extra-local spatial and temporal scales. In this panel participants examine how anticipatory practices such as settlement planning, craft production, rent seeking, ritual, and institution building generate unanticipated changes in the fabric of social relations.

Organizers: Mark Hauser ( and Christopher Morehart (

Plenary Speakers

Susan Alcock, is Director of Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Joukowsky Family Professor in Archaeology, and Professor of Classics, Brown University. (MacArthur Fellow 2001-2006). Sue Alcock is a classical archaeologist, whose work has focused on the themes of landscape, imperialism, sacred space, and memory on Greek and Roman sites.

Ruth Van Dyke, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Binghamton University, is an archaeologist specializing in Chaco Canyon and the prehistoric Southwest U.S. whose work has explored phenomenological approaches and visual archaeology as well as architecture, landscape, and memory.

Pamela Bannos is an artist/photographer and Distinguished Senior Lecturer at Northwestern University whose work has explored the links between visual representation, space, and history/memory. She describes a local project called Hidden Truths as "a site-specific and web-based project [that] is about and within Chicago's Lincoln Park. It introduces questions about how visual evidence does not accurately represent the past, and shows how a lack of such evidence may be literally hiding more historically accurate information."


TAG 2013 will be held in Chicago on May 9-11, 2013. Full details of the program will be posted here in February 2013, once the call for sessions is closed. The evening plenary and reception will be held on Thurs 9 May 2013, with regular sessions on Fri May 10 and Sat May 11.


Thursday evening plenary and reception at University of Chicago main (Hyde Park) campus, Breasted Hall in the Oriental Institute, reception in the galleries of the Oriental Institute.

Friday-Saturday day sessions at downtown University of Chicago Gleacher Conference Center. Saturday evening party (hosted by Northwestern) TBA.



Hotels in Chicago

The conference will be held in the Gleacher Conference Center, which is located in the downtown neighborhood known as "The Loop".




Alternatively, it is usually cheaper to find a room through vacation sublets sites such as Airbnb. When searching these sites, neighborhoods that are within walking distance of the conference center will be listed as The Loop or Downtown. Within a short and easy bus/train ride: the Gold Coast, River North/West, West/South Loop, Old Town. Easy to reach on public transport but approx 30-45 mins away: Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, West Town, Bucktown, Lincoln Park, Andersonville, Edgewater, Lakeview.

Getting here and transport in the city

Chicago has a safe and reliable system of public transport (known as the CTA). It is also easy to hail taxis in the street in most neighborhoods (but not in Hyde Park). Maps and trip planners are available here or through google maps. CTA cards are valid on both buses and trains, but can only be purchased at train stations. Buses also take cash (exact change only). A single journey costs $2.50, with an additional $0.25 for the second transfer and the third transfer free (for trips taken within 2 hours). The Metra is not part of the CTA system – tickets must be brought separately at the Metra station.

To get downtown from O'hare or Midway airport.

Taxis and shuttles are available from both airports to anywhere in the city and cost approx $30-60, but particularly during rush hours the train is a much faster and more direct way to get into the city. From O'hare, the Blue Line will take you directly to the loop. From Midway take the Orange Line direct.

To get to Hyde Park

A taxi from the Loop to Hyde Park will cost approximately $20-30, but note that although it is easy to hail a taxi in the loop it is almost impossible to find a taxi in the street in Hyde Park! Taxis can be booked, however: 312-829-4222 (Yellow Cab), 773-561-4444 (Flash Cab), 312-380-9938 (Blue Ribbon Cab).

The following buses go from the Loop to Hyde Park on a regular basis: 6, 2, X28. For exact roots, check google maps. We advise you to take a bus to Hyde Park rather than take the Red or Green lines. The Metra also goes directly to Hyde Park from the Loop.

Things to do in Chicago

Images from this site come from the Rookery building, and from the recently restored Louis Sullivan Wabash Avenue storefront on State Street. Tours of the Rookery are available every day, and are organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, who also offer a wide range of interesting tours around the city.

Chicago has many fantastic museums, many of which are situated close to the conference center in the Loop or on the "Museum Campus". Other places in the loop to check out include Millennium Park. For those interested in Chicago's historic neighborhoods, the Encyclopedia of Chicago History is free online and a great source of inspiration.

Chicago is also famous for its excellent and diverse food and music! As well as information about places to get lunch near the conference center, we will be publishing details of some of Chicago's culinary culture and nightlife on the site soon...


Sponsors and Organizers

Co-hosting Institutions

Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago (and primary organizers)

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Dept. of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Dept. of Anthropology, DePaul University

Funding Sponsors

Dept. of Anthropology, University of Chicago Lichtstern Fund

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Dept. of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Dept. of Anthropology, DePaul University

Franke Institute, University of Chicago


Shannon Dawdy (sdawdy at uchicago dot edu) and François Richard (fgrichard at uchicago dot edu)