Panel Session Topic: “Training Historical Archaeologists in the 21st Century: Does Theory Matter Anymore?”

Terry Majewski and I are facilitating what will undoubtedly be a thought-provoking, highly interactive, and potentially controversial panel discussion on the training of historical archaeologists. The session, entitled “Training Historical Archaeologists in the 21st Century: Does Theory Matter Anymore?” will be held on Thursday, January 9, from 1:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. (Room 301A).  Panel members will include Mary Beaudry, Lu Ann De Cunzo, John Doershuk, Adrian Praetzellis, Timothy Scarlett, Teresa Singleton, and Mark Warner.  This session will include lots of time for questions and discussions among the panel members and session audience, so we hope many of you will be able to attend the session.

The panel discussion begins with the premise that historical archaeology still falls within two overarching theoretical camps:  (1) postmodern/post-processual archaeology and (2) processual archaeology. The former includes multiple approaches such as critical theory, Marxist theory, feminist or gendered archaeology, post-colonial archaeology, practice theory, etc. Processual archaeology is a continuation of the New Archaeology of the 1970s, which applies scientific methods to archaeological research.  Our panel of prominent historical archaeologists will evaluate the role and impact of these differing theoretical orientations in preparing students for careers in both academia and the world of cultural resource management (CRM)/heritage management. Our panel members, representing both academia and applied archaeology, including CRM, will be asked to consider whether or not these two differing theoretical orientations have equal applicability toward advancing a student’s career in academia vs. a career in CRM; and toward contributing to the questions that count in historical archaeology.

The panel will be asked to address the following questions:

Question 1: The majority of historical archaeology in the United States and Canada is conducted to fulfill the requirements of environmental and historic preservation laws. How can training in a postmodern approach to historical archaeology benefit a student seeking a career in CRM, when the work they will be doing:

  • will be conducted in a business or government agency context,
  • will involve the production of technical reports to be reviewed by government agencies,
  • will be used to demonstrate legal compliance with historic preservation and environmental laws, and
  • might also involve the implementation of public outreach and engagement programs, and consultation with descendent communities and other public stakeholders in the archaeological effort?

Question 2: The articles published in Historical Archaeology and recent volumes on the discipline of historical archaeology seem to suggest that postmodernism is the predominant theoretical orientation for historical archaeological endeavors in academic settings. This also seems to be the case in terms of the sessions and papers presented at SHA’s annual meetings over the last several years.  Do you believe that this is the case, and if so, what role, if any, does a processual approach to historical archaeology have in the training of university students for a career in academia?

Question 3: Do we have an ethical obligation to objectively present the realities of the job market to students pursuing a career in historical archaeology?  If we do, what are the most effective methods and approaches to present these realities to students?

Question 4: How can we ensure as a discipline that practitioners in all career tracks have the opportunity, grounding, and commitment to make a difference and contribute to answering the questions that count in historical archaeology?

Hope to see you at the session and we look forward to some lively discussions!

GMAC Diversity Field School Competition

This year the Gender and Minority Affairs Committee (GMAC) is hosting its first annual Diversity Field School Competition. In an effort to continue making the field of historical archaeology more inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, and socio-economic background, the competition will recognize those who have shown a commitment to increasing diversity in the field and encourage further discussion of the topic. Applicants are required to submit a short essay on diversity, a summary of their field school, and some form of multimedia (photo, pamphlet, video clip, etc.) that highlights diversity in their field school. All awardees will be acknowledged at the 47th Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology and recognized on the SHA website, while the first place winner will receive special commendation. GMAC encourages submissions from all SHA members and conference attendees. The Application Form is available online and completed applications—as well as additional questions—may be directed to GMACdiversityfieldschool@gmail.com. For more information, please refer to the Submission guidelines.

Toward A More Diverse SHA

The idea for the Diversity Field School Competition developed out of a series of larger discussions within the SHA about viable ways to increase diversity within the organization. At the 2011 SHA conference, GMAC members determined that increasing diversity was an important step toward social justice and helping the SHA reflect the diverse communities historical archaeologists serve. These calls for greater diversity were reinforced by subsequent GMAC panels and initiatives such as the GMAC Student Travel Award and diversity training for SHA board members. Earlier this year current SHA president, Paul Mullins, announced his commitment to “make diversity an increasingly articulate part of the SHA mission and our collective scholarly practice.” Additionally archaeologists abroad are discussing the issue of diversity, particularly after the recent release of the Archaeology Labour Market Intelligence: Profiling the Profession 2012-2013 report which identified 99% of archaeologists working in the UK as white. As a result we hope this competition helps to not only recognize those who have shown a commitment to diversity, but also open dialogue about ways to increase the presence of archaeologists from the many underrepresented groups.

We encourage you to also visit the SHA Events website for more information about other SHA competitions, events, and workshops. Hope to see you all in Quebec!

Interested in becoming a part of the conversation? Let us know how archaeologists can work together to increase diversity in the field, and please consider joining or volunteering for the GMAC.

Webinars: A New Frontier in Archaeological Training

The SHA’s Academic and Professional Training Committee (APTC), working with the Conference Committee, offers a range of training and professional development opportunities at the annual conference. We have workshops, roundtables, and fora covering many topics, most developed in response to member interest and needs. To augment these, the APTC plans to try year-round training (not during the conference). You have the opportunity to be part of this on July 17.

This past winter, members of the APTC started kicking around the idea of putting together a set of webinars to offer training and instructional opportunities for the SHA during the year between the conferences. These would supplement the annual conference workshops, which will remain unchanged.

Image courtesy of David Roethler

Webinars (a portmanteau of “web” and “seminars”) are on-line sessions where attendees can interact (audio at least, also video if people have cameras in their computers) and, depending on the software involved, view the moderator’s desktop together. Webinars are increasingly common in business and other fields, and they allow  people scattered across the globe to meet to discuss business, undergo training, or just catch up, all at minimal cost.

The APTC would like to see members of the SHA interested in hosting or attending such web-based training sessions step forward with ideas for webinars. These could range from technical material like database management, curation techniques, or remote sensing applications to theoretical, topical, or regional topics. Professional development topics such as job hunting or transforming your dissertation into a book (thanks, Myriam Arcangeli [@Terrailles]) would also work. The field is very wide open.

Some Things to Consider

One of the benefits of this medium is the low cost. In its initial stages, we would run the webinars through systems such as Google Hangout (with up to 10 seats) or Blackboard Collaborate (for more). With no room to rent, no travel to subsidize, and only the host’s fees (if there are any) to defray, we envision these to be among the most cost-effective development tools available.

There are, of course, a few obstacles. Depending on your preferred method of content delivery (audio only, audio and video, chat), you place different data and computing demands on participants. If an attendee is on a dial-up connection, they may not be able to stream video. Also, some of the webinar delivery systems require downloaded content that, while not usually excessively resource-hungry, may require some lead time for users to get approved and installed (I’m looking at you, Department of Defense archaeologists).

Webinars and the Student Member

As webinars let people log in from wherever they can get internet coverage, they do not require the travel funding that can be a big impediment to attendance. This is particularly true for college students. We are particularly interested to get feedback from students about what kinds of webinars they would be interested in attending.

The scheduling flexibilities of webinars will allow us to focus on applying for graduate schools, preparing for conferences, and other topics that would be more useful earlier in the year than the conference allows. The APTC will be working with the Student Subcommittee of the APTC to develop student-oriented opportunities.

Getting the Ball Rolling

If you have an idea about a topic, you can e-mail me at cdrexler@uark.edu, tweet me (@cgdrexler), or stick an idea in the comments section.

If you’d like to host a webinar at some point in the future, send me a note and I’ll get you an invite to our first webinar on July 17, from 2-3 pm (Eastern). This inaugural webinar will focus on… webinars! We’ll focus on topic ideas, get some background on content development, and discuss the use of the technology. Drop me a line if you want to participate!

Acknowledgements

Amber Graft-Weiss and Terry Brock contributed to a lively Twitter discussion on this topic that helped develop and refine where we would like the webinars to focus. Shelley Keith, of Southern Arkansas University, advised on materials related to webinar content development.