TAG Central 2011

Last year I attended my first ever Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference in Bristol. I'd always been sceptical about TAG, but instead of having my prejudices confirmed I found myself a convert. This year (in Birmingham) I decided to tweet my experience: here is my instant review.

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  1. Day 1

  2. The first session I attended was titled 'Exploring academic values & Concepts: have archaeologists lost the ability to talk about inequality?'. Organised by Adrian Davis (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David) and Robin Weaver (University of Birmingham) the session aimed to explore "whether we do not actually require the concepts of class and ideology to be able to deal with social identity. Therefore, we ask: has postmodernism impoverished our ability to confront real inequality?" (for full details and paper abstracts see the link below):
  3. The first paper was presented by Adrian Davies, who introduced the morning's main themes. I (foolishly) didn't take a pen to make notes, but what struck me about his talk (and many of those that followed) was the inclusion of current economic data, concerns of growing poverty and the broader impact of government policy. Personally* it does sometimes feel like archaeologists – despite widely held beliefs that our understanding of the past is subjective to the present - shy away from linking archaeology into the big political issues of the day. 

    Obviously this was the point of the session and, given how fresh it felt, a potentially vital one. Whether the primarily Marxist approach of many of the speakers is the best way to tackle this may be open to debate.

    *(an opinion that's probably wide of the mark because I haven't read much around this)

  4. The next paper I tweeted about was given by Lorna Richardson, a PhD student at UCL studying Public archaeology in the digital age. Lorna's paper was, as she herself describes it on her blog, "basically a good rant about techno-evangelism and digital specialism creating inequalities".

    It was both a good rant and a good paper:
  5. Whilst the papers in the session were great, leaving me with real food for thought, the discussion left something to be desired...
  6. ....and I was not the only one:
  7. ...and as lunchtime fast approached my intellectual hunger was quickly overidden by actual hunger:
  8. ---- lunchtime interlude ----
  9. With hunger sated we moved into the afternoon. I decided to attend a session on 'Archaeology as a Bridge Between Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities' organised by Zena Kamash (University of Oxford):
  10. The first papers I heard focussed on bridging archaeology and humanities, with what seemed an unfortunate gap...