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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
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In the absence of something particularly clever to contribute, this response will draw principally from other postings, and will touch upon similar themes employed in last week’s posting. Mainly I am concerned with two things: the additive nature of place, and definitions of place (or bounding place). The one seems to feed into the other.

The ‘additive’ nature of place is something akin to what Ingold suggests about landscapes. Rather than stuck in a cultural freeze-frame, landscapes (and places) are continual, changing, marked by moments of activity, but also perpetually weathered and lived. This has everything to do with the temporal that Sarah, and James in a different way, brought up in their pieces. Sarah referred to vertical connections at places (meaning straight time), and argued that these connections never stand alone, so a place is never fundamentally new. I think this fits nicely with an additive notion of place. And although my emphasis, this week and last, has been that places never stagnate, it is also an interesting point that things such as chronological time sequences (i.e. Roman – Byzantine – Ottoman…) don’t entail reinventing places and landscape wholesale according to new cultural structures. They have something very real with which they come into contact, creating an exciting long-term perspective that accompanies all places. With respect to James’s response, I see archaeological-practice-as-placemaking-practice as another strain in what places are. The practices of archaeology are surely context specific, but they nonetheless involve fundamentally similar things. As far as places are concerned, then, archaeology is every bit a part of what they are.

And what they are is a whole new question – one that occasionally gives me pause when I’m up at night thinking about this stuff. The word place seems to carry with it a high degree of specificity. This might stem from the place/space dichotomy that conceives of place as cultural, given meaning, and experienced. Another way to think of this specificity is to incorporate this week’s readings, where places have stories attached to them. Yet, I routinely pause when I consider arguments like Ingold’s, in which places and landscapes are always involved in overlapping networks of tasks, views, individuals, sound, etc. Thus it seems that while places are specific – or tend to be seen as such – this specificity is easily broken down. I sometimes wonder (as Keffie does…) is place the best way to think about this? If places are multi-temporal, encompassing of huge numbers of simultaneous tasks, and connected to innumerable other locations through movement, material and so forth, do we lose too much if we focus on highly local specificity? Do the specific networks that place comprises clash with the high-level specificity that discussions of place have thus far encouraged?

Posted at Mar 02/2009 11:29AM:
Omur: Brad, this provocative question by you and Keffie is well worth pursuing throughout the semester- is place the best paradigm to think about the world? In fact these days, my whole research agenda is oriented around this question. My basic answer would be a straightforward and loud YES!- although I do think places can't be studied without a proper consideration of the landscape in which they are placed, meshwork of human/animal/thingly relations in which they exist and thrive, and the axes of movement in which places are highlighted. That's why I frequently use the Heideggerian term place-world to conceptualize place in a wider world of things. But a place-oriented micro-scale approach has consistently been avoided in archaeology and I feel it will be productive to take this rarely traveled route. I am personally obsessed with the specificity of place because it turns the colonialist visions of landscape from a macro-perspective on its head. A place-oriented approach then is deeply political as a world-view, it is not a random choice. More thoughts to come!