Why blog unfree archaeology?

Posted: 27/11/2013 in free archaeology, Research
Tags: ,

Leading up to a session on Blogging in Archaeology at the 2014 Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Doug Rocks-Macqueen’s hosting a monthly blog carnival on Blogging Archaeology (and there’s also a Twitter conversation on #blogarch). (Like him, I’m not going to be there, and unhappy about it – albeit mainly because it’s in Austin.)

Blogging Archaeology: Moving the 2014 SAA Blogging Session to the Blogosphere

Blogging Archaeology at the 2014 Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology

Why did you start a blog? Why are you still blogging? (And/or…) Why have you stopped blogging?

Cultural Heritage in Conflict

When Colleen Morgan hosted the first carnival in 2011, I was on my first blog, Cultural Heritage in Conflict. It was my PhD research blog, and it enabled me to massively expand access to and communication about my work. Because many of the interested parties were nationalists, I couldn’t write as openly as I would have liked. Nonetheless, it enabled me to correct inaccurate information (before publication), collect new information, and build collaborations across political divisions, which massively amplified my ability to serve the community.

Somewhat strangely (because a lot of it was data or work-in-progress), Cultural Heritage in Conflict has had the widest demonstrable impact. It’s been used by Cypriots (in Cyprus and in the diaspora), academics and students; cited as a resource by Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE); cited as a reference by Internal Displacement in Cyprus: Mapping the Consequences of Military and Civil Strife; and recommended in the Weekly Standard. It has also had demonstrably the least impact, because it has exposed criminal wrongdoing, but nothing has happened.

Conflict Antiquities

If for no other reason than that Blogspot didn’t host PDFs, I had to start a new blog to release my DPhil thesis and other publications. However, that wasn’t the only reason I started Conflict Antiquities (on WordPress). I wanted to document and analyse the illicit trade in antiquities from conflict zones. Also, I had just become unemployed for the second time, and wanted to prevent myself becoming as listless as I had the first time.

Because of the subjects and the style (tl;dr), none of my blogs gets many hits or comments. Most surprisingly (because organised crime and political violence are more accessible, exciting and urgent than the obscurities of Cypriot history or the politics of archaeological labour), Conflict Antiquities has had perhaps the least visible impact. Still, I know that it’s used by academics, students and journalists, so it doesn’t feel entirely futile.

I’m not claiming that it’s had a massive impact on its own (or that my publications have had such an impact), but I do (have to) believe that it’s had some impact and helped to push some discussions in one direction rather than another. I know that my analyses of the illicit trade in Syrian antiquities, looting in poverty and the protection of Greek cultural heritage in the crisis have informed archaeologists, journalists and citizens.

I don’t have great expectations: my hope is to contribute to the social equivalent of redirecting an asteroid. For example, offline, I’ve been one small, distant voice amongst many (many) in a conversation that has led to Iraq ending the death penalty for handling illicit antiquities.

Unfree Archaeology

Unfree Archaeology is both my most profession-focused and my most political blog, and it is the least read one that has been the most successful engagement. It grew out of the live #freearchaeology discussion of unpaid labour and other precarious work in the cultural heritage industry, my anger at the exploitation of cultural heritage workers from the UK to Turkey, and my frustration with being unemployed for a third time.(1)

I felt that the precarisation of the workforce needed to be looked at, that the workers’ exploitation and their experience of that exploitation needed to be shown. I wanted to gather evidence of the impact of crisis and austerity on the cultural heritage profession, and of precarity and unemployment on cultural heritage professionals. And I wanted to record, inform and encourage archaeologists’ resistance to their exploitation.

The blog’s still part of the continuing (British-based) #freearchaeology discussion, but it’s enabled me to provide a lot of translation and explanation of events in Turkey (and a little on Greece and elsewhere), and it’s helped anti-#freearchaeology activists in the UK and #no18maggio activists in Italy to build understanding and solidarity (for example through my chat [chiacchierata] with Alessandro d’Amore). I guess I’ll keep on doing it ’til the ape uprising…


1: I considered simply extending Conflict Antiquities into Unfree Archaeology, and may do it if I get a job where it makes sense, but right now I think it’s easier to keep/leave them separate.

  1. Kelly M says:

    I’ve been following both of your blogs for some time now and just want to thank you for all your time and effort in writing these articles. You may feel that your voice isn’t being heard but I think you’ve done a great job raising awareness of the current state of the archaeology job market. Keep up the excellent work!

    • samarkeolog says:

      Thank you! Your Tomb Raider stuff’s a really nice way of studying the game and communicating archaeology at the same time.

      • Kelly M says:

        Thanks. 🙂

        Admittedly, Lara Croft is a terrible archaeologist and I’m very much against looting and the illicit antiquities trade so I try to take every opportunity to point out the difference between real archaeology and what she and other fictional archaeologists do for a living. The blog is aimed at a general audience so I’m constantly having to balance education with entertainment value. It’s been an interesting experiment so far.

  2. […] it her mission to debunk myths and tackle pseudoarchaeology), and Sam Hardy (who blogs about the state of the archaeology job market and unpaid labour within the cultural heritage sector). You can follow them and other bloggers over at Doug’s Archaeology or on Twitter […]

  3. […] Sam at UnFree Archaeology reminds us that we can blog to make a difference in the injustice we see in the world- […]

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