Friday, May 09, 2008

TAG -Theoretical Archaeology Group conference 2008

So I submitted an abstract for TAG 2008...

Our silent ancestors:
an exploration of the discursive construction of issues around ancient British human remains

There is currently some discussion among museum staff (Levitt and Coats, 2006) and archaeologists (Carroll, 2005: 1) about how best to treat ancient human remains. Some druids (Davies, 1998) have been calling for the reburial of all ancient British human remains, partly in response to the perceived greater respect given to Christian remains, and partly in response to calls by indigenous peoples in other parts of the world for the repatriation and reburial of their ancestors (Wallis and Blain, 2004: 3). Pagans' responses to this issue vary considerably, but illustrate the interrelationship between their spiritual and other concerns. Amongst the respondents of my study, I identified two main groups; those who took a broadly holistic and ahistorical view of the past, and wanted remains reburied eventually; and those who took a more scientific and historical view, and wanted remains to be studied. They also felt that their positions were not the only possible ones, acknowledging the validity of other views, as is quite common among Pagans. However, Pagans form a significant sector of the heritage audience, so the diversity of Pagan discourse should be considered in formulation of policy (Blain and Wallis, 2007a: 10-11).

In order to explore the various discursive positions occupied by Pagans in relation to this issue, qualitative interviews were selected as the best method for this project because they can elicit 'multiple and contradictory perspectives' (Burck, 2005: 241).

Clearly, with such a small sample, it is not possible to generalise about all Pagans; there are several different contemporary Pagan traditions. All that I can describe is how these particular Pagans frame their talk discursively, and compare it to the writings of others on this theme.

Currently, 'official' discourse largely doubts the 'legitimacy' of Pagan concerns, some even dismissing them as 'frivolous' (Blain and Wallis, 2007b: 10), but this has begun to change. It seems that the issue of human remains is now firmly on the agenda, though it remains to be seen whether the multiplicity of Pagan voices will be heard, especially of those who do not want to see remains reburied.
Don't know if they will like it.

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