(HYBRID IN-PERSON / ONLINE) Emotions, Heritage and Archaeology: Addressing Feelings in the Past and Present

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Thursday, May 4, 2023 - 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Muin Room (Hybrid)
  • Sierra McKinney, Université de Montréal
Session Description (300 word max): 

While central to the human experience, feelings and emotions have been historically overlooked in archaeology due to their ephemeral nature and a disciplinary emphasis on rationality. Nevertheless, the presence of emotion in the past is undeniable, as is the emotional impact of archaeology in the present. Archaeologies of the Heart (Supernant et al. 2020) and The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record (Perry 2019) embrace this emotion and, in doing so, conceptualize an archaeology that is grounded in care, wonder, and feeling. Inspired by this vision, this session seeks to discuss the role of emotions in archaeology and explore how an emotional archaeology can be fostered.

As the emotional resonance of archaeology can be felt at every level of engagement with the past, submissions regarding all aspects of affect and archaeology are welcome. This includes presentations discussing specific attempts to identify emotions in the past or efforts to address the emotions experienced by descendant communities, students, the wider public, and ourselves as practitioners in the present. Broader theoretical discussions, such as those regarding our duty of care, ethical implications or future work are also encouraged.

Citations: Perry, Sara. "The enchantment of the archaeological record." European Journal of Archaeology 22, no. 3. 2019: 354-371.

Supernant, Kisha, Jane Eva Baxter, Natasha Lyons, and Sonya Atalay, eds. Archaeologies of the Heart. New York: Springer International Publishing, 2020.

01:00 PM: Pots Offering Protections: A New Paradigm Relating To Some Susquehannock, Mohegan and Haudenosaunee Ceramics
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Robert von Bitter - Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism

This paper uses multiple lines or evidence to show that particular decoration on Contact Period ceramics functioned to keep users safe and healthy. This new identification has significant implications for ceramic and other material culture studies in the Northeast, but perhaps most importantly, reveals the lengths some Indigenous women took to care for their family members. These findings connect us at an emotional level to Indigenous communities that faced epidemics over 300 years ago and enhances our understanding of these people. 

01:20 PM: Social Artefacts, Colonial Guilt, and the Productive Management of Negative Emotions in Museum Programming
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Sierra McKinney - Université de Montréal

By accurately displaying the difficult realities of the past, museums and heritage institutions inevitably elicit upsetting and negative emotions among their visitors, including feelings of shame or guilt.  However, while these feelings may be common in heritage settings they are rarely addressed.  If left unattended shame and guilt can manifest as hopelessness, avoidance, disbelief, and defensiveness. However, guilt is not an inherently harmful emotion. Guilt has equally been found to increase empathy, encourage honesty and self-reflection, promote reparations for past harms, and create a desire to avoid repeating harms in the future.

As we cannot avoid the upsetting nature of Canada’s colonial past, we must instead ensure museum audiences are appropriately supported in their efforts to address their negative emotions.  This presentation will discuss the initial evaluation of a series of facilitated dialogue sessions with non-Indigenous visitors experiencing negative emotions related to Canada’s colonial history and Canadian Residential Schools. Using museum artefacts as social objects, these sessions aimed to encourage comfort with discomfort and challenge the, at-times, paralyzing or defensive responses to guilt which prevent meaningful engagement with reconciliation.

01:40 PM: Nostalgia and the Industrial Fishing Heritage of Rivière-Saint-Paul, Quebec’s Lower North Shore
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Francisco Rivera - Universidad Católica del Norte, University of Toronto

Rivière-Saint-Paul is a village near the Strait of Belle Isle in Quebec’s Lower North Shore, on the periphery of the world’s major industrial centers. Counting only a few hundred souls, it was part of a globalized world defined by industrial and capitalist expansion. Its archipelago peripheral spaces concentrated regional labor forces and transformed resources wrested from the sea. The current research project focuses on a 19th-20th century guano (fertilizer) factory and an industrial fishery operated from 1855 to 1970 at Rivière-Saint-Paul. The local descendant community firmly bases its identity and sense of place and history on this period of industrial activities. I examine nostalgia as an emotion fostering the local history of the fishing industry and the archaeological imagination associated with its ruins. However, nostalgia becomes a resource, a new form of capitalist extractivism. I examine the industrial heritage of the recent past and the role that nostalgia and imagination, encouraged by a collaborative digital archaeological project, play in the persistent resonance of the past in the present.

02:00 PM: "C'est embêtant de vieillir !" An Autoethnographic Archaeology of Grief and Loss
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Emma Palladino - Université de Montréal

This presentation was born from the death of my grandmother in April 2022. As a student of archaeology and feminist anthropology, I wondered if I might explore her life and memory through an autoethnographic approach, sifting, as an archaeologist often does, through lived experiences, family stories, and sites of memory. Autoethnography blurs the line between observer and participant, creating a space for lived experience as the site of knowledge production. Archaeology asks us to consider material forms as sites of meaning, linking past and present. Through familial interviews, fieldwork in both my grandmother's home cities of Paris and Montreal, digital archives, and autoethnography, my goal was fourfold: to explore the life of my formidable grandmother; to make sense of my own complicated feelings; to better understand the material/spatial links which bind me to her still; and to, perhaps, make a space for reciprocal exchange.

02:20 PM: Does rage have a place in public archaeology?
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Katherine Cook - University of Montreal

Although public archaeology has often emphasised the role of positive emotions, particularly in reflections on enchantment, the joy of discovery, and the freedoms of curiosity, this paper will examine the potential contributions of rage. Case studies in the evolution of public archaeology will trace the relationship between experiences of oppression and exclusion, the emotions of rage, joy and fear, and the emergence of inclusive, accessible and collaborative approaches. Challenging traditional notions of irrational rage (often leveled at women, queer folk, and BIPOC scholars), it will be argued that critical refusal, activist-driven research, and artistic methodologies are the cornerstones of rigorous, thoughtful and ethical approaches. It will also counterbalance the value of critical emotion with the dangers of burnout, abuse and toxicity.

02:40 PM: The Woman Life Freedom movement and archaeology: finding hope in the Ganj Dareh legacy collection
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Sanaz Shirvani - Université de Montréal
  • Juline Riel-Salvatore - Université de Montréal

This paper explores the strong links between an archeological legacy collection with the recent Woman, Life, Freedom movement, in an Iranian diasporic context in Montréal. Although Western archaeological research conducted in Southwest Asia during the 1940s to 1970s significantly contributed to our understanding of past lifeways and cultures, there is ongoing controversy concerning the ownership and distribution of artifacts collected as part of this research, many of which were exported to North America. This has, in some cases, caused negative feelings among members of the Iranian diaspora who feel that these artifacts belong in their homeland. Recently, the first author of this paper has been involved with the movement, in which she observed anger and disappointment triggered by the extractive nature of Western research projects which have dissociated and exported Iran’s cultural heritage abroad.  Despite their physical distance from Iran, many members maintain strong connections to their homeland and culture and continue to play a significant role in reshaping Iranian identity. Here, we discuss how the ongoing work on the Ganj Dareh at Université de Montréal and the anticipation for its significant outputs have helped shift negative feelings to more positive emotions, such as hope.

03:00 PM: The Value of Discomfort: unsettling archaeology through community-based research
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Ashley Piskor - Western University

Decolonizing archaeology works toward deconstructing the settler colonial structures that underpin the discipline through anti-colonial restructuring of its theory and methods. As Kelvin and Hodgetts (2020) point out, this “unsettling” the discipline can also produce “unsettling” feelings for settler archaeologists as they must acknowledge the harms archaeology has inflicted and continues to inflict on Indigenous/descendant communities.

In this paper, I outline the “unsettling” principles and methods guiding my PhD research working with Inuvialuit partners and community members of the Western Arctic. My engagement with decolonial theory and my practical field experiences have led me to experience discomfort and to question my role in Indigenous archaeological research as a non-Indigenous woman and intended ally. I will relate how acknowledging these complex feelings and discussing archaeology’s colonial foundations with my community colleagues and partners has fostered genuine connections and trust necessary for navigating and centering Indigenous worldviews and voices in research.