Cook, K. (n.d.). EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies. European Journal of Archaeology, 1-17. doi:10.1017/eaa.2019.23
This article is part of special issue of the European Journal of Archaeology, “Human, Transhuman, Posthuman Digital Archaeologies”, organized and edited by Marta Díaz-Guardamino, Colleen Morgan and Catherine J. Frieman, following an inspiring and moving session at the annual meetings of the European Archaeology Association in Barcelona in 2019. The challenge set forth to us by the session organizers was to discuss:
the ways digital archaeology is affecting, disrupting and/or enhancing archaeological fieldwork, public archaeology, education and the publication/dissemination of archaeological data. Of particular interest are papers that engage with creativity and making, digital post/transhumanism, query analog methods through digital media, and feminist, indigenous or queer digital archaeologies.
In a break from a lot of what I had been writing and speaking about at the time, I took this as an opportunity to reflect upon my position as a queer feminist archaeologist engaged in digital making for public archaeology applications. Perhaps inspired by one too many late night viewings of comedian Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette (which should be considered required viewing) and echoes I was hearing across my academic circles of individuals who were burning out, exhausted, broken by systems of discrimination, I wanted to consider a question that, although not new, is gaining volume in many spheres of feminist, queer, trans, indigenous, black, etc. voices: what is the cost of using our voices? and is it worth it? While recognizing the digital opportunities for shifting power and who is heard, I also wanted the opportunity to point out one of the flaws in transhumance and postman philosophies: that these technologies were not created equal, and are not equitable for those who use them. They have rather created new channels for abuse, new fissures, new challenges.
Following the EAAs, we were given the opportunity to submit articles to the EJA as part of a special issue showcasing current perspectives on digital archaeology. The issue, which was recently released, includes powerful contributions by Colleen Morgan, Ruth Tringham, and William Caraher, and more. My article, EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies, is available here (let me know if you need access to the article).
ABSTRACT: Inclusive approaches to archaeology (including queer, feminist, black, indigenous, etc. perspectives) have increasingly intersected with coding, maker, and hacker cultures to develop a uniquely ‘Do-It-Yourself’ style of disruption and activism. Digital technology provides opportunities to challenge conventional representations of people past and present in creative ways, but at what cost? As a critical appraisal of transhumanism and the era of digital scholarship, this article outlines compelling applications in inclusive digital practice but also the pervasive structures of privilege, inequity, inaccessibility, and abuse that are facilitated by open, web-based heritage projects. In particular, it evaluates possible means of creating a balance between individual-focused translational storytelling and public profiles, and the personal and professional risks that accompany these approaches, with efforts to foster, support, and protect traditionally marginalized archaeologists and communities.
This was by far the most difficult paper I have written to date, due in part to the weightiness of the subject of discrimination, harassment, abuse and violence within and beyond academia (including my personal experiences but also more broadly), but also the complex (and perhaps overly ambitious) task of representing extremely diverse identities, experiences and voices that have emerged and transformed over time in connection to archaeological research and digital practice.
The result is wholly imperfect but I am starting to come to terms with publications being mere punctuation marks in a much longer process of developing and sharing ideas, knowledge, and perspectives.
Nevertheless, I would like to acknowledge and correct a glaring error in the text. Precise and thoughtful word use in this space is incredibly important, and beyond muddling/confusing the message, misuse of words are damaging to individuals and communities. Unfortunately in revising the text at some stage, the removal of a large block of text lead to the inclusion of “transsexuality” where it should have been “trans identities”. Somewhat ironically, this is an “artefact” of sorts from a previous version of this paragraph that was speaking more broadly of the transformation of accepted vs. disused/problematic words, identities, and understandings over time, that unfortunately had to be cut due to the paper being far longer than the maximum word length.
These asymmetrical relationship between homosexuality and heterosexuality only really represent the most visible tip of a much wider set of entangled identities and related issues, including bisexuality’s problems of bierasure, biphobia, and lack of representation, asexuality’s lack of recognition, or transgender identities and the
transsexuality’schallenges of gender-sex-sexuality conflation and very particular modes of transphobia (Weismantel, 2013).
A correction has been submitted to the EJA but I also wanted to acknowledge it here with sincere apologies for the error and any discomfort or offense it may cause.
More broadly, as acknowledged in the article itself, the discussion “comes from a queer, feminist, cis-female, white, settler perspective”, which has its particular set of privileges, limitations and experiences. At times, I fear it does not fully represent the true diversity of identities, voices and experiences that shape digital disruption in archaeology, partly as a result of the above mentioned word limit but also because I cannot speak from those perspectives but rather point to them. Hopefully this is a starting point for developing more complex discussions of the intersections but also the ways in which these diverse perspectives diverge and even conflict at times in digital practice (I would genuinely be honoured to co-create something on these lines if that is of interest to you).
So I will end with one last quote from the paper, as a call to arms, in the hopes of stimulating further action and transformation in archaeology:
The future will be digital, but it will only be diverse and inclusive if, together, we make it so.
So put aside your fears that your efforts will be incomplete, flawed, imperfect (they will be – the nature of ever-evolving, complicated issues), and let’s collectively make archaeology (and life in general) more inclusive.
See also: Queering Archaeological Knowledge Maps.