Tuesday, December 26, 2006

interview 4

I did interview no 4 the other day. It was completely fascinating, with some unexpected extra bits. Again, the ideas expressed supported the range of ideas in the literature, but in an unexpected way. I think I asked a leading question at one point. Also, the interviewee clearly demonstrated a postmodern awareness of the relativity of truth claims, something which all the respondents have done, which is interesting in itself.


Bienkowski, Piotr (2006), 'Persons, Things and Archaeology: Contrasting World-views of Minds, Bodies and Death.' Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice. A conference organised by the Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and Honouring the Ancient Dead, supported by the Museums Association (17.11.2006) - unpublished
Blain, Jenny and Wallis, Robert (2001), 'A British Reburial Issue? Statement by the “Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights” Project.' “Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights” Project [online] available from http://www.sacredsites.org.uk/reports/reburial.html [accessed 27.10.2006]
Blain, Jenny and Wallis, Robert (2004), 'No One Voice.' British Archaeology (78). [online] available from British Archaeology (http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba78/feat1.shtml) [accessed 27.10.2006]
Blain, Jenny and Wallis, Robert (2006), 'A Live Issue: Ancestors, Archaeologists and the “Reburial Issue” in Britain.' Association of Polytheist Traditions [online] available from http://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/essays/reburial.html [accessed 27.10.2006]
Blain, Jenny and Wallis, Robert (2006), 'The Sanctity of Burial: Pagan Views, Ancient and Modern.' Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice. A conference organised by the Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and Honouring the Ancient Dead, supported by the Museums Association (17.11.2006) – unpublished
Blain, Jenny and Wallis, Robert (forthcoming, 2007), Sacred Sites – Contested Rites/Rights: Pagan Engagements with Archaeological Monuments. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press.
Brenneis, Don (2002), 'Some Cases for Culture.' Human Development 45 (4), pp. 264-269 [online] available from Ebscohost/Academic Search Elite (AN 11375837) [accessed 24.12.2006]
Brothwell, Don (2004), 'Bring out your dead: people, pots and politics.' Antiquity 78 (300), pp. 414-418 [online] available from Blackwell Synergy (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Burck, Charlotte (2005), 'Comparing qualitative research methodologies for systemic research: the use of grounded theory, discourse analysis and narrative analysis.' Journal of Family Therapy, 27 (3), pp. 237-262 [online] available from Ebscohost/Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection (AN 17909639) [accessed 26.12.2006]
Cantwell, Anne-Marie (2000), ' “Who Knows the Power of His Bones”: Reburial Redux'. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 925 (1), pp. 79-119. [online] available from Blackwell Synergy (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Carroll, Quentin (2005), 'Bodies: Who wants to rebury old skeletons?' British Archaeology (82). [online] available from British Archaeology http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba82/feat1.shtml) [accessed 27.10.2006]
Chatters, James (2002), 'Last Word on Kennewick Man?' Archaeology, 55 (6) p. 17 [online] available from Ebscohost/Academic Search Elite (AN 7510937) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Davies, Paul (1998), 'Speaking for the ancestors: The reburial issue in Britain and Ireland. Personal thoughts concerning modern-day Druidic and Pagan theologies of burial, life after life and the conflicting practices of archaeologists.' Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids archive [online] available from http://www.druidry.org/obod/eisteddfod/entries/prose/reburial.html [accessed 27.10.2006]
De Baets, Antoon (2004), 'A Declaration of the Responsibilities of Present Generations towards Past Generations.' History and Theory, Theme Issue 43, pp. 130-164. [online] available from Blackwell Synergy (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Diaz-Bone, Rainer (2006), 'Kritische Diskursanalyse: zur Ausarbeitung einer problembezogenen Diskursanalyse im Anschluss an Foucault.' Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung, 7 (3), p. 1 [online] available from Ebscohost/SocINDEX (AN 21734748) [accessed 24.12.2006]
Domanska, Ewa (2005), 'Toward the Archaeontology of the dead body.' Rethinking History, 9 (4), pp. 389-413 [online] available from Ebscohost/Academic Search Elite (AN 18807076) [accessed 26.12.2006]
Doumas, Christos (1998), 'Excavation and rescue operations: what to preserve and why.' Museum International, 50 (2), pp. 6-9 [online] available from Blackwell Synergy (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Giles, Melanie (2006), 'Archaeology of Human Remains: Paradigm and Process.' Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice. A conference organised by the Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and Honouring the Ancient Dead, supported by the Museums Association (17.11.2006) – unpublished
Goldstein, Lynne and Kintigh, Keith (1990), 'Ethics and the Reburial Controversy.' American Antiquity, 55 (3), pp. 585-591 [online] available from JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Klesert, Anthony L. and Powell, Shirley (1993), 'A Perspective on Ethics and the Reburial Controversy.' American Antiquity, 58 (2), pp. 348-354 [online] available from JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Kluger, Jeffrey and Cray, Dan (2006), 'Who Should Own the Bones?' Time, 167 (11), pp. 50-51 [online] available from Ebscohost/Business Source Premier (AN 19953808) [accessed 26.12.2006]
Lehtonen, Mikko (2000), The Cultural Analysis of Texts. London: Sage Publications.
Levitt, Sarah and Coats, Laura (2006), 'Museums and Human Remains: Duty of Care, Consultation, Consent.' Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice. A conference organised by the Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and Honouring the Ancient Dead, supported by the Museums Association (17.11.2006) – unpublished
Parker-Pearson, Mike (2003), The Archaeology of Death and Burial. 2nd ed. Stroud: Sutton Publishing.
Randerson, James (2004), 'Guidelines for reburial of old Christian bones.' New Scientist 182 (2447) [online] available from Ebscohost/Academic Search Elite (AN 02624079) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Restall-Orr, Emma (2005), 'A Theology of Reburial.' Honouring the Ancient Dead [online] available from http://www.honour.org.uk/articles/reburial.html [accessed 27.10.2006]
Restall-Orr, Emma (2006), 'Cultural Attitudes Towards Sanctity of the Human Body.' Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice. A conference organised by the Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and Honouring the Ancient Dead, supported by the Museums Association (17.11.2006) – unpublished
Restall-Orr, Emma and Bienkowski, Piotr (2006), 'Respectful Treatment and Reburial: A Practical Guide.' Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice. A conference organised by the Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and Honouring the Ancient Dead, supported by the Museums Association (17.11.2006) – unpublished
Rountree, Kathryn (2006), 'Performing the Divine: Neo-Pagan Pilgrimages and Embodiment at Sacred Sites.' Body & Society, 12 (4), pp. 95-115 [online] available from Sage Publications (http://www.sagepublications.com) [accessed 5.11.2006]
Scarre, Chris and Scarre, Geoffrey, eds. (2006), The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Scarre, Geoffrey (2006), 'Archaeology and Respect for the Dead.' Journal of Applied Philosophy 20 (3), pp.237-249 [online] available from Blackwell Synergy (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/) [accessed 18.10.2006]
Seibold, Carmel (2000), 'Qualitative research from a feminist perspective in the postmodern era: methodological, ethical and reflexive concerns.' Nursing Inquiry, 7 (3), pp. 147-155 [online] available from Ebscohost/Academic Search Elite (AN 5519166) [accessed 26.12.2006]
Slater, Elizabeth (2006), 'The Benefits of Scientific Study and Analysis of Ancient Human Remains.' Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice. A conference organised by the Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) and Honouring the Ancient Dead, supported by the Museums Association (17.11.2006) – unpublished
Wallis, Robert (2000), 'Queer Shamans: Autoarchaeology and Neo-Shamanism.' World Archaeology, 32 (2), pp. 256-262. [online] available from JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org) [accessed 18.10.2006]

Monday, December 04, 2006

interviews 2 and 3

I have now done interviews 2 and 3, which also went well and the respondents' ideas were richly nuanced and contained lots of different ideas and discourses, including some new ones not referenced in the first interview. All of the interviews taken together do actually reflect the range of positions and ideas to be found in the academic and other literature on this subject, though.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

interview 1

I've just done my first interview, and it went really well, except I think I asked a leading question at one point, though it's difficult when it's someone you know and they said something fabulous in the past that you want them to reiterate for the interview.

Anyway I think I identified about 7 different discourses in one interview, so it was very richly-nuanced.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

further reading

contamination of data?

For anyone who is wondering whether me posting my reflective research diary on a blog will skew my data, I am pretty sure that it won't, because none of the five interviewees I have chosen actually reads my blogs, and this blog is not publicised anywhere (though it can be found via my Blogger profile). If I was going to interview a lot more people on this topic, I'd probably put this on Livejournal and restrict it to a smaller audience.

Once people have been interviewed, I may well direct them to this blog if they express an interest in finding out more about the subject of the research.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pagan perspectives

Pagan perspectives on the ancient dead vary according to a number of things:
  • interest in archaeology: many Pagans are interested in archaeology and value the insights into our ancestors that it offers. Indeed, many Pagans were interested in archaeology before they started out on their spiritual path, and it may have been what inspired them in the first place.
  • emphasis on timelessness: those who advocate reburial across the board don't seem very interested in history, stories and remembering the dead. They seem to regard the ancestors as a part of the landscape, not as individuals. Their discourse is also characterised by an essentialist view of tradition - the "it's always been this way" school of thought largely derived from early 20th-century folklore studies.
  • emphasis on memory and stories: those who are interested in remembering the ancient dead and connecting with their culture (including Emma Restall Orr, whose position seems to have become more complex and nuanced) want to see respect at the centre of the agenda for handling the ancient dead, and acknowledge that this means different things to different people and in different cases and contexts.
  • beliefs about the soul: those who are more inclined towards animism will tend to see the bones of the ancient dead as still containing spirit in some form. Those who are more inclined towards dualism will tend to see bones as inert matter.
  • degree of holism: the more holistically inclined will tend to see landscape, community and ancestors as aspects of an organic whole; those who are more inclusionally inclined will see these as intertwined but distinct domains.

respect conference

On Friday I attended the Respect for Ancient British Human Remains: Philosophy and Practice conference at Manchester Museum.

It was very interesting, and I got some new angles on the whole issue, including more insight into what makes archaeologists want to excavate (many of them want to reveal the stories of the downtrodden and marginalised, as I thought) and the range of alternatives being proposed by HAD (Honouring the Ancient Dead), which are very sensible and practical. There was also a fascinating presentation showing ways in which scientific data from bones can be used, and a wonderful paper from Leicester Museums Service on how they involve all the different communities in Leicester, including Pagans, in their projects. Jenny Blain and Robert Wallis presented an excellent paper pointing out the range of views within Paganisms. Emma Restall Orr's paper was very poetic as well as practical. I really enjoyed the paper by Melanie Giles about bog bodies, which included several quotations from Seamus Heaney's poems about them. All in all a most enjoyable and thought-provoking event. I was hoping to get some interviews for my mini-project, but as the only Pagans there were Emma, Robert, and Jenny, all of whom are massively well-informed on the subject, they don't quite fit the profile of interviewee that I am looking for. Also I am thinking about the possibility of only interviewing witches and Wiccans, since the majority of my sample will be in that category.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


It's so easy to get distracted from writing. This morning I put some clothes in the washing machine, emptied and refilled the dishwasher, read some email and some friends' blogs, and wrote two blog posts (about the Antichrist and pavement poetry) before I started. Probably the secret is to download all the articles you want to cite before you start writing, otherwise the temptation to digress is too great. But that's not really the way my thought processes work; I make a point and only then am I reminded of the article from which I got the idea for it.

I also wrote the previous post just before going to make some lunch. I've just invented a yummy combination: wholemeal tortillas fried in butter, with a topping of mackerel in green peppercorn sauce, and little gem lettuce. Now that was a worthwhile distraction.

qualitative research methods

I'm currently writing an essay on "the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative method in researching contemporary religions and spiritualities". It's really difficult to come up with more strengths than weaknesses. Is this because humans are an inherently moany species, constantly finding fault with everything, including good old qualitative methods? Or is it because the strengths are a general thing and the weaknesses are very specific?

It's also difficult to find citations (especially ones dealing with qualitative methods in the study of religions), because journal articles are normally reporting on what the researchers studied, rather than evaluating the methods used (though they usually say what methods they used, they obviously want to tell you how wonderful they are, not to criticise them).

It's also difficult to review the whole field of qualitative methodology in 1500 words! I need at least 2500 to really get my teeth into an essay topic.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Academic perspectives

Most of the academic perspectives are on the issue of reburial of indigenous American human remains, but people are starting to address the concerns of druids and others in Britain, especially Jenny Blain and Robert Wallis.

Druids and neo-shamans as marginalised voices - some have argued (e.g. Wallis 2000) that druids represent marginalised perspectives and that mainstream archaeology is a hegemonic perspective as it identifies with science. This argument has also been put forward by various authors about Native Americans. I certainly feel that there are some in the archaeological community who dismiss other perspectives out of hand, but by no means all. Wallis (2000) points out that we should not dismiss marginalised voices or fail to take their spiritual perspective seriously just because they are outside the rationalist paradigm. Indeed not, but realistically, there will probably have to be a compromise on this issue.

Ethics of reburial - these revolve around remembering the dead, respecting their last wishes, not undermining their life's project. One very interesting article examines the ontological status of the dead, and concludes that they are less than human but more than objects - they are former human beings, and as such, worthy of more respect than mere things. We need an ethical code that understands and includes other cultural perspectives. The issue of reburial is not an ethical conflict but a conflict of cultural values (Goldstein and Kintigh 1990). The veneration of the dead is highly variable and culturally determined. For example, in the Neolithic, people put bones in burial mounds and got them out regularly to interact with them in ritual.

Cultural affiliation and genetic descent - the basis for claims upon bones in America and Australia and other colonial and post-colonial contexts is that the current indigenous people are genetically descended from and culturally affiliated with the ancestors whose bones they are. In Britain, this is different - both the archaeologists and the druids can claim equally to be descended from the ancestors, so cultural affiliation comes into play, along with ethical issues as outlined above. But (as Cantwell 2004 points out) cultures are not unchanging monolithic structures; they morph over time, and the idea of cultural affiliation implies that they do not. Also, even though claimants are primarily motivated by respect for the ancestors, other political and cultural factors and outcomes are inevitably brought into play, some of which may be positive and some of which may be negative.

Scientific & medical benefits of excavating human remains (Randerson 2004) - analysis of bones excavated at Wharram Percy showed that osteoporosis was just as prevalent in the Middle Ages as it is now - which suggests that we need to look beyond lifestyle factors for the causes of this disease. It was also discovered from the Wharram Percy remains that there was a higher incidence of left-handedness - probably because it was a pre-literate culture. Both of these findings were due to new techniques.

Cultural benefits of excavating human remains - we can discover our ancestors' lives - arguably this benefits them (de Baets 2004), as then they are remembered, and it benefits us (Cantwell 2004), as it may enable to us to live more harmoniously and sustainably.

About the project

I am currently working on a project on reburial of ancient human remains. A few years ago, my position on this was broadly that ancient pagan skeletons should get the same respectful treatment as old Christian ones. But what do we mean by respect? Reburial? Repatriation (if they come from abroad)? Memory? Appropriate ritual?

More recently, I have come to think that remembering the dead is just as important as treating their bones with respect, and therefore I am opposed to a blanket diktat to rebury all ancient remains. I object to the loss of archaeological data, because I believe that it is important to remember and reconstruct the lives of our ancestors, from both a spiritual and a historical point of view.

Both my husband and I have been Pagan for a long time and interested in archaeology and history for a long time. I have always felt inspired by the Paganisms of the past, and am therefore interested in the lives of the people who held these beliefs in the past, partly because they are intrinsically interesting, and partly because we can learn from their experiences and traditions how to live sustainably, honourably and harmoniously. We cannot totally reproduce their way of life - we live in a new set of circumstances and with different challenges. But it is useful and interesting to look at the lives of people who lived fully immersed in a 'pagan' paradigm (I put that in quotes because they may or may not have had an idea of a distinct religious tradition separate from life in general, or in contrast to other religions.

It also seems to me that they built conspicuous monuments in the landscape because they wanted to be remembered (at least in the Bronze Age, when barrows for individuals were put up (even though secondary burials were added later).
Our days are ended. Think, then, of us.
Do not erase us from your memory, nor forget us.

Popol Vuh, sacred book of the Quiché Maya, quoted in de Baets (2004)
Also I think that most archaeologists (in the UK at least) are motivated by respect for and interest in the lives of the ancestors - cf the TV programme Meet the Ancestors with Julian Richards, which was clearly motivated by interest in and even compassion for the ancestors, and certainly evoked these emotions in the viewer.

I wish to research the views of a cross-section of Pagans, to establish what their views on this issue are, and what sort of discourses are being brought into play. I am aware that there are some more moderate advocates (of compromise options and selective reburial), so I want to talk to them.

For this initial project, I will be doing five anonymised face-to-face interviews with a cross-section of Pagans (maybe from one specific tradition, I don't know yet - depends who I can get).