No Time like the Present: Archaeologies of the Contemporary Era

  • Anatolijs Venovcevs, UiT - The Arctic University of Norway
  • Julia Brenan, Memorial University of Newfoundland

While the last 50 years witnessed increasing development of contemporary archaeology around the world, this uptake has been relatively slow in Canada. Although disciplines like geography, anthropology, sociology, history, and folklore have tackled the remains of the recent past, archaeology’s methodological and theoretical approaches provide a unique hands-on perspective to the study of things in the present. This present has been labelled in multiple ways (e.g., late capitalism, supermodernity, the Great Acceleration, the Anthropocene) but it is generally defined by a collective knowing that the last fifty to a hundred years are somehow different from before. This difference requires a direct archaeological engagement with the contemporary period as a whole, which in turn has the power to inform the broader discipline. Therefore, this session seeks to bring together archaeologists who engage with the contemporary period from across Canada and beyond with the goal of creating a broader dialogue around theories and methods used to engage with the recent past. Topics can include, but are not limited to: modern ruins and rubble, pollution and toxic legacies, built twentieth century environments, family archaeology, cultural heritage management of twentieth and twenty-first century sites, recent Indigenous experiences within and outside the colonial systems, twentieth century military sites, plastics and modern garbage, and legacies of anthropogenic climate change. Through the meeting of a broad variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, the session seeks to spur a lively discussion of what an archaeology of the present looks like and how it can develop in the future. Papers are asked to reflect on what makes contemporary archaeology a unique sub-discipline in archaeology and how it shifts the priorities, methodologies, and modes of research communication within the field.