Sunday, 6 September 2009

Modern Materials - CHAT 2009 conference

We're hosting the 7th annual meeting of the CHAT conference group for contemporary and historical archaeology at Oxford next month. The theme is 'Modern Materials'. Here is the conference abstract, with links to the programme.

CHAT 2009 - Keble College, Oxford

Modern Materials: the archaeology of things from the early modern, modern and contemporary world

Friday 16-Sunday 18 October 2009

How does the study of material things contribute to our understanding of the early modern, modern and contemporary world? What is the distinctive contribution of archaeology in these studies?

CHAT 2009 focuses on the archaeological study of ‘Modern Materials’ – from ‘small things forgotten’ to large and complex technological artefacts; and from discrete, single objects to large, disparate assemblages.

The study of material things is a central element of all archaeology. But some have argued that a concentration on materials fetishizes things, focusing too much attention on the empirical detail of materials or manufacture. Equally, others have suggested that material culture studies are too often strangely dematerialised – focused only on social relationships and not on the physicality of objects. Responding to both these arguments, CHAT 2009 considers and celebrates the diversity of archaeological studies of ‘modern materials’, and their interdisciplinary contribution.

Papers are invited that focus on the study of particular ‘modern materials’, broadly interpreted: the many material dimensions of the early modern and modern periods and the contemporary world (c. AD 1600 to present).

Questions addressed by the conference will include, but are not limited to:

  • Is it helpful to define the archaeology of the modern world according to its focus upon material things?
  • How can contemporary and historical archaeology relate to anthropological material culture studies?
  • How can we rethink archaeology’s distinctive approaches to studying things as important tools and resources, rather than simply methods for dry empiricism?

The full programme is online at

Registration forms are online at

Keynote Speaker: Prof Nick Shepherd (University of Cape Town)

Discussants: Prof Mary Beaudry (Boston University), Prof Laurie Wilkie (University of California, Berkeley), Dr James Symonds (Sheffield University), Prof Chris Gosden (Oxford University)

Concluding remarks: Hedley Swain (MLA)

More details on the CHAT group -

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