Archive for May, 2010

Next Seminar: “Social Memory in Archaeology”

Memory is not data stored in the mind, but ‘emerges from the mutual engagement between the person and world’ (Jones 2007). It mediates between the past and the present and is not a passive reading of external information. It is part of the ongoing process of interpretation and re-interpretation of the world.

Memory can also change through time and memories can be eradicated. Connerton (1989) argues that memories are socially constructed phenomena and not purely psychological occurrences or constructed by social narratives. Instead, he argues than memory is embodied in social practice and that habit memory is expressed in actual body or physical movements of people and in ritual performances. Social memory can cause inertia in social structures, although this is not always the case. In order to understand these social structures it is necessary to examine habit, bodily practises and ritual. Accumulated material memories can create/ define human identity and personhood (also group identities). Material culture as a medium for storing memory (also neurological/ cognitive ability i.e. human brain evolution & language) but also for creating new memories and thus a medium for transmission of information, knowledge. Archaeologists have tended to either treat past societies as if they had no memories and to process and analyse their actives as if they had no sense of their own past, or archaeologists tend to rely heavily on textual evidence, which can be limited, fraught with pitfalls and can be limited in scope. Alcock (2001) believes that memories are embedded in a material framework and memory in archaeology can be ‘experienced’ in several ways, through actions or gestures, monuments, symbols and, of course artefacts.

Three case studies are listed which discuss various ways in which memory is used:

Embodied memory used to promote political/social capital in mortuary feasting in Late Bronze Age Greece and how the past is manipulated by ruling elites (Hamilakis).

Aurignacian statuettes reflect cultural memory, and are not passive objects that are reproductions of collective ideas but instead are active objects with meaning and have links with cultural memory, although, they have individual variations they possess shared meaningful ideology (Porr).

Social memory in a wider landscape at a time of dissent in Archaic and Hellenistic Messenia, exploring monuments and competing versions of the past (Alcock).

This seminar led by Dr. Yannis Hamilakis (University of Southampton) intends to use three casestudies to frame the discussion. (Questions to frame the discussion will be sent later)

Seminar will take place at 6.30pm on Wednesday 19th May 2010 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (51a Odos Notara).

Please RSVP to request the reading as spaces are limited: