I attended the Modern Greek Studies Association conference in Vancouver, B.C. over the last few days. It was a great show. Our panel on the archaeology of modern Greece was sparsely attended, but the discussion was vigorous and the feedback good. It was great to reconnect with Effie Athanassopoulos, Amelia Brown, and Kostis Kourelis. It was also fun to meet Matthew Milliner, blogger at millinerd.com. and northamericanchurches which I have now happily added to my delicious blogroll and will link to regularly. (His Wordless Wednesday feature is the kind of alliterative brilliance that I can truly appreciate).
Here's a link to our paper. My understanding is that Kostis Kourelis has recorded the session and I hope to make these links to our papers as MP3s available soon. As a preview, the papers captured the variety of methods employed to come to grips with modern Greece with an archaeologist's tools. These methods ranged from diligent work in paper archives to field work rooted in the best practices of processualism to post-processual practices that sought to reconcile the varieties of relationships and experiences recoverable within the modern landscape. What was perhaps striking is that none of our methods were particular to the Greek national experience. This is perhaps good in that it avoids reifying age old arguments for Greek exceptionalism (rooted in the archaeological practices derived in large part from the study of ancient Greece), but it was a bit disappointing as well in that the unique history of Greek archaeology and its institutions must contribute more than just a particularly well-curated body of knowledge, but also distinctive ways of understanding the landscape, the place, and the people.
Vancouver was a great city. The trip to the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology was a particular highlight. Much like our panel and the project of archaeology more generally, this dramatic building sought to wrap the material culture of the first nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest in a modern setting. The interplay between the elaborately carved, yet functional house posts and totem polls and the austere economy of the poured concrete building made obvious the act of translation performed at the museum. The artifacts of the various local tribes found themselves recontextualized within the museum of the colonizer. The relationship between the vertical lines of the museum and the dimensions and functions of the architectural fragments and objects housed within it proved that some cross-cultural understanding is possible, and while it would be neither precise nor value free, it could at least be dramatic and emotionally evocative.
The scenery around Vancouver was simply ridiculous. The rain, the coastline, the diversity of the city's neighborhoods, and the company made the entire experience memorable (and how often can we say that about an academic conference?).