Digging Diversity

Organiser Hannah Cobb (University of Manchester)
Email Hannah.Cobb@manchester.ac.uk

The post-processual agenda has asked us to interrogate our own personal and disciplinary biases in so many ways. Post-colonial, feminist and queer critiques, to name but a few, have all at some stage in the last thirty years played a fundamental role in archaeology’s theoretical development. Yet now, in 2011, can we say that these critiques have had any real impact on our narratives of the past and our practices in the present? In the case of professional practice it seems not. The IfA’s most recent Profiling the Profession exercise demonstrated that mostUK archaeologists over the age of 30 are male, 99% of allUK archaeologists are white and 98.4% are able-bodied (Aitchison and Edwards 2008). Many accounts of the past similarly lack the rich diversity that narratives of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and identity, more broadly, raised so vividly in the 1990s and early 2000s.

This session invites papers that will address these problems by asking; how can we weave diversity into the pasts that we investigate and the present that we work in? However this session will be more than just disciplinary solipsism – it is hoped that papers presenting examples of best practice, as well as those with productive and practical suggestions for developing a diverse past and present, teamed with creative discussion, will lay the foundations for some realistic solutions as to how we may all dig diversity.

AITCHISON, K. & R. EDWARDS. 2008. Archaeology labour market intelligence: profiling the profession 2007-08.Reading:Institute ofField Archaeologists.

Digging Diversity: An introduction & an introduction

Speaker: Hannah Cobb (University of Manchester)
Email: Hannah.Cobb@Manchester.ac.uk

In this paper I will provide two introductions – firstly to the session and the issues that the session will address, and secondly to my own research project, also titled Digging Diversity. The IfA’s most recent Profiling the Profession exercise demonstrated that in 2007 most UK archaeologists over the age of 30 were male, 99% of all UK archaeologists were white and 98.4% were able-bodied (Aitchison and Edwards 2008). Digging Diversity takes this research as a starting point from which to critically re-examine the make up of the archaeological profession and the archaeological student body in the UK today. This paper will present the results from a preliminary study into these issues, exploring whether the global economic downturn has had tangible impacts on diversity in the profession, and outlining examples of best practice to overcome disciplinary inequalities. Ultimately this paper will set the scene for the rest of the session by arguing that diversity in archaeology is a fundamental concern for archaeological theory. By deconstructing the division between theory and practice that underlies many approaches to issues of diversity, we have the potential to enrich the discipline in both interpretations of the past and our practice in the present.

The study that will form the basis of this paper is still ongoing and will be open online until the week before TAG so that the results presented will be as up to date as possible. If you are interested in undertaking this brief (less than 2 minutes) questionnaire this please follow this link http://windev.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/surveys/TakeSurvey.asp?SurveyID=3136l500387KK2.

The mass media’s portrayal of female archaeologists & the influence on the general public’s perception of them

Speaker: Tuesday Welsh (University of Manchester)
Email: Tuesday.Welsh@Postgrad.Manchester.ac.uk

This paper presents the results of a study which examined the relationship between the mass media of today and the female archaeologists that are, or are not featured within it. I will examine the various ways in which female archaeologists are presented in the media, such as ‘The adventurer’ or the ‘victim’ and I will question whether these depictions are accurate compared to the actual professional female archaeologists living and working in modern Britain today. The issue of education and employment will also be considered, with a focus throughout on how these images of potential female archaeologist role models could be affecting the up and coming female generation. Ultimately the results that I will present in this paper demonstrate the complex and important role that the media is playing in the lives of professional female archaeologists today.

Ancestors, gods & professors: expectations, norms & role models in creations of our presents & pasts

Speaker: Karina Croucher (University of Manchester)
Email: Karina.Croucher@Manchester.ac.uk

Just a few weeks ago, a report made the news which raised concerns over the lack of male primary teachers, which has resulted in a dearth of adequate role models for young males in our society. Whilst this is a valid concern, I was struck that little thought is given to the comparable lack of role models elsewhere in education, with few females in positions of authority within our schools and educational facilities; a pattern which is also mirrored across industry, with a lack of senior, female board members, chairs and managing directors (see, for instance, City University London and Demos report, 2008).

This lack of balance in our educational system has been a concern for feminist critiques for some time, and an issue repeatedly addressed in literature addressing archaeological epistemologies from the 1980s until the present (including MacCormack & Strathern 1980; Wylie 1991; Gero 1992; Conkey & Gero 1997; Gilchrist 1999; Bolger 2008; and Pope 2011).

Furthermore, these expectations, it seems, are inherently built into are representations of the past. In this paper, I explore how the issue of role models is frequently extended back into our interpretations of the past, where, despite archaeological evidence to the contrary, our ancestors, gods and leaders are consistently assigned to male spheres. Considering the evidence from the Neolithic Near East in Anatolia, I examine the interpretations made of our male role models in the past, and wonder if, mirroring our contemporary situation, our perceptions of the past assign-by-default the role models of the past to the male domain.


Bolger, D. (2008) Gendered fields in near eastern archaeology, in: D. Bolger (Ed.) Gender Through Time in the Ancient Near East. New York / Plymouth UK: AltaMira Press, Pp. 335-60.

City University London and Demos (2008). Women’s Leadership in the UK Cultural Sector: An Exploratory Survey. City University London, London. www.city.ac.uk/cpm/ejournal/womens_leadership_march_2008

Conkey, M.W., & Gero, J.M. (1997). Programme to Practice: Gender and Feminism in Archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 26: 411-31.

Gilchrist, R. (1999). Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the past, London: Routledge.

Joyce, R.A. (2008a). Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives: Sex, gender, and archaeology, London: Thames & Hudson.

MacCormack, C.P., & Strathern, M. (1980). Nature, culture and gender, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pope, R. (2011). Processual archaeology and gender politics. The loss of innocence. Archaeological Dialogues 18 (1).

Wylie, A. (1991). Gender theory and the archaeological record: why is there no archaeology of gender? In Gero, J. and Conkey, M., (eds.), Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.31-56.

Archaeology & Disability Studies: Narratives of Impairment in the Past & Present.

Speaker: William Southwell-Wright (Durham University).
Email: w.a.southwell-wright@durham.ac.uk

Whilst archaeologies of gender, ethnicity and sexuality have played their part in influencing archaeological interpretations of historic communities, the past that we imagine often remains able-bodied in character. This appears bizarre given the abundant osteological evidence we have for past impairments, evidence which remains under-utilised in interpretive archaeologies wherein disability is often assumed to be of a uniform and transhistoric character. The discipline of Disability Studies, and specifically historical and sociological analyses that have emerged from it, offers an important critique of traditional analyses of disability in its distinction between the physical fact of impairment and the socially engendered condition of disability. This paper argues that this distinction, when applied to archaeology, offers a means of avoiding the reductive statements regarding past disabilities that have previously proliferated, and allows us to recognise their historically contingent nature. Arguably however, archaeology has as much to teach Disability Studies as it has to incorporate due to the unique perspective it can provide on the corporeal and embodied elements of the experience of disability within differing social contexts and over time. By aligning itself with current dialogues on disability, archaeology thus has the opportunity to offer valuable insights for both the past and present.

Diversity in archaeology past & present

Speaker: Marjolijn Kok (Maatschap ILAHS)
Email: marjolijnkok@ilahs.org

In this paper I will show, how the emphasis on fieldwork in archaeology has led to an undervaluation of the contribution disabled people can make in archaeology. With reference to the Dutch quality system I will suggest some improvements that will recognise non-fieldwork as just as much a part of archaeology. In the valorization of the archaeological non-fieldwork disabled persons may feel they too can become valuable archaeologists.

At the same time the assumption of the able bodied archaeologist has led to a neglect of difference in the past. The past has also become able-bodied in the sense that all has to fit into neat categories. Exceptions are viewed as anomalies that must be solved instead of aspects of life that can be cherrished and/or meaningful. With the aid of queer theory a more diverse past may be envisaged. This is not just about the people of the past but can also help further ideas about material culture. When divergences from the standard are no longer seen as abnormal, but inherent to all cultural aspects a more diverse image of the past could emerge.

Workforce diversity: anecdote & evidence

Speaker: James Doeser (The Arts Council)
Email: James.Doeser@artscouncil.org.uk

In 2008/09 UCL Centre for Applied Archaeology conducted a research project on behalf of the Council for British Archaeology’s Diversifying Participation Working Group. The project identified the main barriers to entry into (and progression through) the historic environment workforce for people from ethnic minorities and made recommendations for how these barriers could be removed. This paper will outline the key findings of the research and offer some comment on the changing nature of our understanding of diversity in the wider cultural policy context.


Diversifying diversity: Expanding participation in archaeology

Speaker: Suzie Thomas (Council for British Archaeology)
Email: suziethomas@britarch.ac.uk

Diversity, in all its forms – from socio-economic background and education opportunities through to disabilities, ethnicity, religion, gender and even sexual preferences – are increasingly monitored and recorded in the interests of ensuring that opportunities for employment or other engagement are as accessible to as wide an audience as possible. However, with some forms of ‘diversity’ more apparent than others, there is the temptation to make assumptions about the current makeup of those involved in, or enthused by, archaeology. For example, while the Council for British Archaeology’s (CBA) own membership does comprise lower-than-average percentages of ethnic diversity, there are higher-than-average percentages of disability. Furthermore, the current CBA-managed Community Archaeology Bursaries Project, supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, has ‘diversity targets’ to meet as stipulated by the funders.

This paper explores the recent policies and observations of the heritage sector, including data from museums and the voluntary sector, to identify current trends in archaeological engagement, and to make observations on the extent to which there may be scope for more meaningful engagement with diverse groups, moving beyond a ‘ticking box’ exercise to meaningful and sustainable models.

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