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Biographies and Beyond: Approaches to Biography in the History of Archaeology

February 3, 2012

The HARN workshop will be held on Thursday 12 April 2012 at Birkbeck College, London.

Biography is one of the most popular formats for exploring the history of archaeology (see Kaeser 2008, Wallace 2002, Gillberg 1998, Givens 1992). It provides a focal point for the discussion of social, cultural, political and economic factors inherent in archaeological research, and can have a wide public impact. Biography in the history of archaeology combines literary style with vigorous scholarly research and opens up questions of methods and source material. How do biographers address the complexities of individuals within the context of their time while doing justice to their work as scholars? Papers for this panel may include discussions of how biographies are constructed, the problems of source material and the selection of an individual or individuals for study.

There is also a strong need for investigating the biographies of people who support and promote archaeology as well as biographies of archaeologists themselves. How do the stories of these “archaeological supporters” relate to and inform the history of archaeology? Recent work on Amelia Edwards and William Macgregor, for example, sheds light on important social and cultural contexts of the history of archaeology. It also informs our notions of gender and class in archaeology: who were the wives of the famous archaeologists? Who worked in museums and collections? Who was the workforce? Who were the funders? Alternatively, are there other ways we can understand individuals in their context – can we move beyond biography to a better understanding of historical reality? How can we embrace and incorporate new technologies in the exploration of past lives?

Please RSVP to Amara Thornton (amara.thornton@ucl.ac.uk ) if you would like to attend, or if you are interested in giving a paper. Unfortunately we will not be able to provide travel expenses, but it will be good to have a contribution from you.

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