Plenary Session

The Future of Things

Plenary speakers: Stephen Shennan, Michael Schiffer, Webb Keane and Rosemary Joyce.

In 1979, TAG was founded to explore interdisciplinary theoretical topics and their relevance to archaeological interpretations. Thirty years later, perhaps it is time to stop and critically evaluate where we are and where we want to go. Thus, to inaugurate a return to TAG’s roots, this plenary session provokes the big question: where are we taking theories about the relationships between people and things?

Archaeology has long developed a distinctive research tradition for understanding the complex relationships of people and things. Dedicated to the ‘study of old things’ by contemporary people, archaeology’s strength and singular contribution lie with developing insights into this fundamental relationship. Attending to the interactions and co-dependencies between people and things is a common enough denominator, as much as a source of division. Archaeologists tackle this fundamental relationship between people and things from varying perspectives, tagging the components differently, whether as materiality or material culture, objects or things, dialectics or behavior, objectification or mixtures, textual sign or symbolic storage, phenotype or drift. Ultimately, we are all having a conversation about one topic: people and things. Indeed, theorizing, developing practices for recovering, and interpreting the relationship between people and things constitute one of our greatest contributions to other disciplines and one of our appeals to larger society. Drawing upon this long and distinctive research tradition which spans the discipline’s many theoretical camps, this session will assemble a team of scholars from both archaeology and cognate fields for a conversation about the future of things.

See the 'Question Competition' page for details of how to send in your questions for the plenary speakers.

The plenary session will begin at 5.30pm on Friday 1st May in the Cubberley Auditorium, and will be followed by a wine reception.