|figure from my paper|
The new materiality: Vacuous or just incomprehensible?
Looking back, I was perhaps a bit harsh in my tone, bordering on rudeness. Some students from UCB posted some critical remarks about my post on their departmental Facebook page.
You can see some of the posts from the Boulder group here.
I fired back and posted some more remarks on my blog. I was taken to task by the department chairman, in a rather rude ad hominen post, for shooting my mouth off without restraint, rather like a small child. You can find all this pretty easily if you are interested (note: it is not very interesting...). Nearly all of the criticisms from Boulder suggested that my speech was not valued. I was insulting; I was trying to spoil their special lecture; I should not say such nasty things about their distinguished visitor. Many people came along and liked their critical posts. I became a pariah to UCB Anthropology-Facebook. But not a word about the intellectual content of the lecture or my reaction to it.
I was dismayed, insulted, and demoralized by my first social-media hazing event. The comments to some of my blog posts discuss some of these issues. But to me, the key issues were--and are--scientific and intellectual. I found the whole approach of Rosemary Joyce's talk to be anti-scientific and thus detrimental to the advance of the kind of archaeology I advocate in this blog. I was particularly incensed at her argument that fields like archaeology had to choose between the humanities and the natural sciences. She claimed that, given the inadequacies of natural science, we should choose to follow the humanities. This is so wrong-headed, it drove me nuts.
My reactions led to me create a series of posts that clarified my views of science, social science, and the place of archaeology. Writing these helped me clarify my own views of the topic, and try to put them into a framework that would be clear to other archaeologists (ever wonder why i blog? This is a primary reason - it helps me clarify my thoughts).
Science, Social science, and archaeology: Where do we stand?
Pascal Boyer's view of science, social science, and the humanities
Why is it important to strive for a more scientific archaeology?
Why is a scientific archaeology so hard to achieve?
((you can get to the later posts from the first one))
After this whole event had died down, it occurred to me that I should present these ideas in a larger venue, in a streamlined and more efficient context. Why had no one called the postprocessualists to task for their outdated and inaccurate views of positivism and science? Why haven't scientifically-minded archaeologists shot back at the epistemological hogwash? So I sent off a short piece to Antiquity, and they accepted it. I was a bit nervous, wondering if it was entirely proper to put ideas from a blog post into a journal article. But this was not at all a literal re-doing of the blog. The basic message was the same, though. I came across the paper on archaeological theory by Julian Thomas, and found that none of the work I do - theoretical or empirical - would fit under his definition of "archaeological theory." So I contrasted it with the list of different approaches to archaeological theory given by Jarvie and Zamora-Bomilla. I also continued some of the themes from my paper on archaeological arguments.
So the path of this article was:
- attended a talk I did not like
- wrote a snarky blog post about it
- was attacked on social media
- sharpened my thinking in a series of blog posts
- condensed and sharpened the ideas further for a journal paper
So, I figured that it was time for another blog post (this one). Perhaps I should give a bad lecture on the whole affair and complete the circle. Or maybe I should shut up and concentrate my efforts on publications, not blogs.
To quote my favorite rock band, "What a long strange trip its been....."
Jarvie, Ian and Jesús Zamora-Bomilla (editors)
2011 Sage Handbook of the Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Sage, New York.
Smith, Michael E.
2015 How Can Archaeologists Make Better Arguments? The SAA Archaeological Record 15 (4): 18-23.
2017 Social Science and Archaeological Inquiry. Antiquity 91: 520-528.
2015 The Future of Archaeological Theory. Antiquity 89: 1287-1296.