Session at 2011 Theoretical Archaeology Conference
UC-Berkeley (6-8 May 2010)
In José Saramago’s História do Cerco de Lisboa (1989), a transgressive proofreader alters the course of history with the insertion into a text of a single word, not. Negating a crucial statement in a text on the siege of Lisbon, the proofreader sets out to rewrite history. Archaeologists and art historians by reconstructing objects and audiences produce narratives on visual encounters. Through excavations, primary texts, and artifacts, cultures of reception are articulated and experiences with objects are extrapolated. Similar to the proofreader’s transgressed ethical code, archaeologists and art historians operate with an infinite list of assertions and negations that define the possibility of certain inquiries and narratives. The scholar knows, for example, that a twelfth-century Byzantine viewer did not use an iPad for worship. Despite understanding the visualities of a Byzantine beholder and the workings of the iPad, the extrapolation of this encounter is verboten as a scholarly narrative. Nevertheless, the scholar engages in the same process of imaginative and discursive reconstruction when they produce any historical narrative.
This panel encourages the suspension of disbelief, the negation of historical givens in order to construct imaginary historiographies that displace and perform the processes of socio-archaeological research. Papers should study impossible encounters between past audiences and differing visual culture. The panel’s aim is to articulate how this new historiography could be used to further current methodologies that embrace scholarship as a dynamic form of social production.
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