Archaeology, Museums & Heritage – Make new things but keep the old: a social archaeology of innovation
‘Make new things but keep the old: a social archaeology of innovation’
Professor Catherine Frieman | Australian National University
Innovation—at its basic level an anthropocentric process of change over time—looms large in the contemporary world, being bound up in the core economic, social and political relations of the capitalist world. Unsurprisingly, this fascination has inspired research into and critical of innovation and innovative practices across myriad academic fields, archaeology among them. We archaeologists have a longstanding and probably inescapable fascination with the temporality of change. From biblical and evolutionary models to scientific dating methods, change over time has been a continuing focus of our research. Even as archaeological thought has fragmented over the last several decades – with new interpretative approaches emerging almost as fast as new scientific methods – how and why new ideas emerge and spread has remained a central concern of archaeologists around the world. Despite this persistent fascination, I argue that we have rarely engaged with innovation as a social phenomenon—and even more rarely considered the social processes of non-innovation: conservatism, tradition, and resistance. In this paper, I outline a social archaeology of innovation that sees both innovation and non-innovation as emergent from the complex relationships between people, technologies and the wider world. This model gives us fertile ground to revisit old debates, pose new questions, and side step the old evolutionary approaches in order to envision a more complicated, more human past.
Catherine Frieman is an associate professor in European archaeology in the School of archaeology and anthropology. Previously, she was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art at the University of Oxford and a lecturer in archaeology at the University of Nottingham. She received a BA in archaeological studies from Yale University and an M.st and D.phil in archaeology from the University of Oxford. Catherine’s D.phil examined the adoption of metal objects and metallurgy in 4th-2nd millennium BC northwest Europe through a close study of various lithic objects long thought to be skeuomorphs of metal.
Date: Thursday, the 30th of September
Time: 4-5pm (AEST, GMT +10)
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The Department of Archaeology is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).
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