CFP: Theories of the Past

Via Dan Diffendale:

Theories of the Past: The Role of History in Archaeological Approaches
An Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
Sponsored by the University of Michigan Collaborative Archaeology Workgroup

Date: March 23-24, 2012
Where: University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI

Understanding the human past is the goal of both archaeology and
history, yet the methodologies and theoretical approaches they
implement intersect in both complementing and contrasting ways. This
conference will provide an opportunity for junior researchers to
present innovative research and provide a forum for discussing the
gaps, bridges, shared goals, and incompatibilities of archaeological
and historical approaches to the human past.

We are calling for papers of 20 minutes in length that deal with the
relationship between archaeology and history and tackle broad themes
through specific case studies and applications. Papers will be
presented in panels with other graduate students working on similar
themes or approaches. While engaging with these panel themes,
presenters should situate their research in particular archaeological
or historical case studies. The following themes will structure these
panels and provide a starting point for contributed papers and larger

The Formation of Texts
Archaeologists often employ written evidence to provide accounts of
processes not materially visible. These sources may include
ethnography and ethnohistory, administrative documents, journals and
personal accounts, and ancient historical records. Textual scholars
must wrestle with questions of authorship and consider the context and
conditions in which texts are produced—a process we can think of as
text formation. How does the production and preservation of texts
affect how they are employed by archaeologists in the analysis and
interpretation of the past?

Contemporary Issues as Historic Processes
Many issues of contemporary political, social, and economic interest
have deep histories in the human past. How can contextualizing
contemporary problems like debt, inequality, cultural interaction, or
environmental impacts with a long-term perspective help us understand
the genesis and dynamics of these issues?

Events and Processes in the Past
Different lines of evidence, both material and textual, engage with
multiple tempos – from singular events to the longue durée.
Archaeologists must consider tempos of archaeological formation
processes that produced these lines of evidence, but also consider
short and long-term scales of change. How can we synthesize multiple
lines of evidence to provide a more complete understanding of the
impetus for and implications of change?

Comparative Approaches
The comparative approach continues to find widespread use in the study
of the past. In addition to using narratives from different places
and/or times, archaeologists and historians also use comparison to
approach methodological and evidentiary problems. What do comparative
approaches add to our understanding of the past? What are the
similarities and differences in the ways archaeologists and historians
deploy comparative examples?

Presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion of the papers
and their relationship to the panel’s central theme as well as the
broader subject of the conference. All fields of archaeology and
history (Anthropological, Classical, Near Eastern, area studies, etc.)
are welcome.

To facilitate a ‘workshopping’ atmosphere and to promote informed
discussions, participants are asked to submit a paper copy of their
presentation one week before the conference (March 16, 2012).
Pre-circulated papers should be of presentation text length only
(approximately 10-12 double-spaced pages); polished written copies are
not expected.

Abstracts of no longer than 200 words should be submitted by February 15, 2012.
Please submit abstracts and direct questions to

Although travel stipends will not be available for this conference,
accommodations (with Michigan archaeology graduate students) for
Friday and/or Saturday night(s) will be arranged upon request.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided on the day of the

The Collaborative Archaeology Workgroup (CAW) is a group of graduate
students from several departments at the University of Michigan
(including Anthropology and Classical Art and Archaeology) who share
an interest in archaeological research, theory, and methods. We are
dedicated to promoting interdisciplinary research and facilitating the
exchange of information among all students interested in studying the
past through archaeological techniques.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Rackham Graduate School,
International Institute, Museum of Anthropology, Kelsey Museum of
Archaeology, and Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and

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