Temporalities Otherwise: Archaeology, Relational Ontologies and the Time of the Other

Posted on March 27, 2020


This part of my series of posts on conference presentations, that I have filmed. This is another one from the TAG conference:

Session Info

Archaeology as ‘undisciplined’ practice (Haber 2012; Hamilakis 2013) emerged from the acknowledgement of its disciplinary entanglements with the philosophical and epistemological tenets of Western modernity and necessarily also with its ‘darker side’ that, as Mignolo (2011) writes, is the irreducible colonial character of the knowledge it produces. With the recent ‘ontological turn’ in theory, archaeological materials came forth as vibrant components of material-sensorial assemblages: but is that enough to counteract the coloniality of (archaeological) knowledge? In this session, we wish to expand the conversation on decoloniality, modernity, and archaeology from the realm of materiality to that of time, focussing on the discipline’s many ‘others’: non-professional local communities – beyond the boundaries of the political category of ‘indigeneity’ – but also the materials themselves. If ‘the selfdetermination of the Other is the other-determination of the Self’ (Holbraad et al. 2014), we seek to explore the ways in which archaeologists translate these self-determined temporalities into archaeological knowledge, and how their practice is reshaped in the doing. We hope to promote a dialogue between case-studies from different regional contexts, where alternative voices emerge in the face of dominant archival productions, exceeding their limits and shaping creative ways of being in relation. Contributions will explore:

•The place and the role of archaeology – as praxis in fieldwork, but also as discipline that retains archival power over the past and is part and parcel of the work of statutory and intra-governmental agencies for heritage conservation – in the production of time and temporalities;

•The practices of negotiation with the past of the Others and their translation into academic knowledge;

•The legacies of colonialism/imperialism in the production of archaeological knowledge and new avenues for the creation of emancipatory, counter-modern and alter/native archives;

•Memory, materiality and multi-temporal encounters in and around archaeological sites.

Organisers: Francesco Orlandi Barbano (University of Exeter) and Silvia Truini (University of Exeter/University of Southampton)


‘Indigeneity’ and ‘Endemicity’ in an Environmental Archaeology Narrative: A Philippine case


This paper presents a study on long-lived lifeways in tropical island environments using Philippine zooarchaeological material from the past 20,000 years. On the one hand, I tackle questions related to the native fauna, driven by a requisite to understand a biogeographic region renowned for its mega-biodiversity and high endemism. On the other hand, I also examine how the zooarchaeological record can be a means through which we can investigate the temporality of indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) systems. These may appear as disparate bodies of data, but they are threaded together by several things, including: 1) the relevance of archaeozoological data for conservation biology and indigenous conservation efforts, and 2) the foregrounding of indigenous and local knowledge in the past and present in response to normative efforts to globalise knowledge. The use of the IEK concept is one attempt to re-frame an environmental archaeology dataset within a broader narrative that can potentially be more relevant to local communities where the sites are located. Reframing and translating archaeology is a tenuous business, but appears necessary for a broader Filipino public to which it is a largely alien form of knowledge, and for indigenous communities to which its concerns may be disengaged.

Janine Ochoa (University of Cambridge)

Tracing the Mirage of the Near East: Saracens, Barbarians, Turks, Moors and Arabs


The proposed paper traces the formulation of mythical ideological conceptions of Near-Easterners (inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa) beginning from their early becoming at the time of the crusades, through their resurrections in early modern England and up to their continued use today. I visit each of the imagined figures of the Near-Easterner within European and specifically English imagination: the ‘Saracen’, the ‘Moor’ whether of Barbary and Morocco or of Muslim Spain, as well as the ‘Turk’ of the Ottoman Empire and end with the new and contemporary mythical figure, the ‘Arab’. Drawing on Frederick Saussure’s and Jacques Derrida’s definitions and redefinitions of the ‘signifier’ and the ‘signified’, I demonstrate how the inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, were defined from the first crusade, within an imagined framework of a specific stereotype. I conclude the paper by briefly shedding light on contemporary voices of resistance to the named signifiers within the context of decolonisation.

Haythem Bastawi (Leeds Trinity University)

The ruins of the Sacred City: Alternative indigeneity in the other-history of Quilmes


Every archaeological site holds histories that go beyond the disciplinary classification imposed on it. In the case of Quilmes (Province of Tucuman, Argentina), the memory carried by the material remains dates back to the last bit of indigenous resistance in front of the Spaniards colonization of the Andean region, but it is also intertwined with the recent history, the cultural policies deployed during the civic-military dictatorship, the struggle for the land of the Comunidad India Quilmes (CIQ), and the development of the neoliberal and multicultural state since the Argentinian back to the democracy. In this context, ‘heritage’ emerges as a key notion in order to understand the coloniality of the relationship established with the territory and the people who inhabit it. The dispute above the ownership and management of the site uncovers a deeper struggle between the provincial state and the CIQ, which might be understood in the terms of an ontological disagreement around time and landscape constituting ‘heritage’. The paper will focus on such a disagreement, highlighting the way by which the encounters between archaeologists and community have been responsible for imposing an authoritative view, but also for fostering the capacity of the community to produce an alternative account.

Francesco Orlandi Barbano (University of Exeter)

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