Pardon for the lapse in posting, faithful Reader, but this has been a busy spring of grading orangutan papers and conference preperation for me. I’ve just gotten back from the 49th annual Medieval Association of the Pacific conference held in Reno. Well done conference organizers- you’ve done incredibly well both our field and your institution. Also many thanks for the donuts- I am always appreciative of a good pastry.
I presented on my north Atlantic identity research to some success. Being the only independent scholar medieval archaeologist and studying the Vikings is a good way to guarantee someone will want to listen to you speak on your work. And they did- I’m glad as social structure diagrams are not everyone’s cup of tea. Identity is at once one of the simplest and simultaneously complex constructions humans can make as a species. It is central to how humans interact with each other and their world. From a medievalist perspective focusing on it can be like re-weaving the past. It finds the humanity within material and allows the intangible choices that directly impacted the physical archaeological record to be examined. It pulls the folk from within the lore out for the world to see, as the gone-but-never-ever-forgotten Alan Dundes once told me after class. And apparently it is a topic people want to discuss with you after your presentation.
I consider everything to be a text that can be read in some way in true anthropological fashion. Humans are such an incredibly varied species that only by considering them in an approximation of that variation can one arrive at a more complete view of the whole. Of course the view is mediated by the biases inherent to studies of the past- preservation context, state and impact figuring largely in this. As long as this is kept in mind and acknowledged so that other researchers can see your full reasoning on the matter this is perfectly acceptable. Medieval populations left many things for the future couched in terms of their everyday existence and intentional writings, as all other humans populations do past and present. It is how they assured that their contemporaneous human identities were preserved for their descendents of blood, time and space.
As always when I attend conferences I’ve come away with many things to consider and having met new friends. If you’ve found your way here because of MAP this past weekend welcome! I’ll try to be more regular with posting things now that I’m caught up on my conference writing again.