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گفتگوی عمران گاراژیان با پرفسور متیو جانسون، استاد دانشگاه ساتهمپتون در مورد زمینه و فرایند
متیو جانسون از تاثیرگذارترین باستان شناسان نظریه پرداز در باستان شناسی فرافرایندی است. وی سالهای بسیاری را صرف پژوهش بر ساختارهای اجتماعی و عاملیت انسانی در قرون وسطی انگلستان کرده است . آنچه در پی می آید مصاحبه ای است که در بهار سال جاری بین متیو جانسون و عمران گاراژیان
با محوریت زمینه و شرایط تئوریک آن و مسئله فرایند در باستان شناسی انجام شده است.
این مصاحبه به زبان انگلیسی انجام و منتشر می شود.
Maryam Shakooyi, M.A. Archaeology
G:there are many terms in archaeological thought and among them Process is one of the most important. However, it is a difficult term to define.
J: Yes, I agree. Process is one of a number of words that archaeologists use in quite familiar ways, but when picked apart, their meaning is not so clear – the other obvious example of such a word is ‘culture’.
G: I have a question about a live context and the concept of process. We agree that understanding process is the final aim of the analysis, not the observation itself. Do you agree that observation is a small part of the process?
J: Here’s how I see it. When you are walking around Bam and you see buildings going back up, people leaving objects lying around, you are looking at particular actions and activities that are part of the creation of the archaeological record. However you are not directly observing process. Process is something which underlies these particular actions. Process, being something which underlies all of this, is not in itself directly operable. You can infer possible underlying processes from what you are observing.
G: The question arises here because in ethnoarchaeology we have a simillar position to the sociologist. We can observe agents, we can observe humans, we can observe building activities, we can observe things, and we can understand the meaning of the things in a living context. But this is not true for archaeology as the archaeologists reconstruct their understanding by materials because he doesn’t have any agents. Pottery is a good example. Archaeologists suppose that some people made them and they maybe move between settlement and have a trade with each other and etc. this is different from sociology and ethnoarchaeology.
J: I don’t accept this distinction fully. I don’t think it is as simple or as clear-cut as you suggest. If you think about what the ethnographer or the ethnoarchaeologist is doing, they are not simply or only observing. Ethnography always moves beyond description to interpretation. The social scientists always tried to look behind and beyond any social situation, and behind and beyond the overt reasons which are given for human behaviour. Now in archaeology this act of imagination involved in looking behind individual actions is arguably a more difficult and profound leap, but it is there nevertheless. So in principle, all the human sciences make this inferential leap from obsevring behaviour to attributing process.
G:yes but how?
J: Well, suppose for example you ask human subjects about their eating patterns. They will give you an impressionistic answer, and they may not tell the truth, for example claiming that they eat more fruit and vegetables than they really do, and less chocolate and English pudding than they really do. So when a social scientist analyses interview data of this kind, he or she is constantntly looking behind and beyond the ‘raw data’, in terms of unspoken social motivations, social and ethnic origins and so on. Now take an archaeological example – the functions of stone tools. We take data on stone tools – their form, the wear on the blades – and from this we draw generalisations about how stone tools were used about the assemblage as a whole tnat are not reducible to any one tool. So I don’t accept that there is a huge epistomological or methodological difference between the methods of the social scientist studying populations today and the archaeologist studying dead populations.
G: Let’s talk about process in live context and dead context. Are they the same?
J: That’s tricky because process I, in part about the long term. If you want to see process you have to look at the long term. Think about processes we talk about in the present, for example ‘secularisation’ and ‘golobalisation’. You can only understand and meaningfully talk about such processes by putting them in historical context. Consequently, the study of process in what you are caling ‘live context’ and ‘dead contexts’ shares similiarities, because in both cases you have to place your findings in the context of a long term that embraces both past ans present.
G: I agree with you but I have another question. Is it true that the long term process is composed of short term processes?and what is the relationship between short term and long term processes?
J:I don’t think you can answer that question in the abstract, with an answer that is true in all times and all places. It is depends on the period you are talking about that. For example, with the Palaeolithic, there are clearly some very very long term processes which have to be understood.
G: What do you mean by long term?are you speak about the distance?
J: About distance in terms of time. Let me give you an example with handaxes. Hand axes were produced hundred thoussand of thousands of years ago, over a very long period. Over this time, they changed in certain ways. The timespans involved mean that these changes are difficult to understand in terms of individual lifetimes and human actions. So when you ask a question what is the relation ship between a long term and the short term, my answer is that relationship will vary from context to context, for example between the Palaeolithic and the Middle Ages. For me, it’s less of a general theoritical question, because I would …different answer to the question depending on which period of study I was talking about.
G: Theoretically, how do postmodern archaeologists reconstruct long term process as they do not think you can see the past?
J: Can you explain what do you mean by a postmodern archaeologist?
G: ya,people who have some poplication after 1982 like symbols in action.
J: OK, so you are talking about some post processual archaeologists, and you are asking about culture process. Well, I think this is a very interesting point because what many post processual archaeologist claim to do is to reject the idea of process. But in the last few years, I’ve become more and more convinced that if you look in detail in this at what post processual archaeologists have actually done in terms of concrete intepretations of the past, they still rely on the idea process. I’ll give you an example: we went to went to stonehenge today. Lots of phenomenologist look at sites and landscapes like Stonehenge in terms of ‘every day experience’ They insist that we have to undrestand subjectivity in terms and talk about individuals moving inand around the Stonehenge landscape. However, when they talk about the social structure and organisation that built and maintained Stonehenge, I think that they revert implicitly to processual models. So there is a rhetorical rejection of process, but in fact process is really cooprated in to the explanation.
I’m thinking about this at the moment, and moving towards a position that ‘archaeological theory’ is not about competing schools, but rather the argument now is between kinds of impulses or practcies within the craft of all archaologists. We should think more about the push-and-pull of different and very complex intellectual and practical drivers and factors in approaching any archaeological situation. Do I want to understand subjectivity? Does my boss want me simply to classify by space and time? How am I going to get my student essay written by the end of next week? How much money do we have to finish the excavation? How are my personal views validated by the peer group of archaeologists I work with? So this situation has changed in Anglo-American archaeology – where in the 1990s we were aving quite bad-tempred argyments between theoretical schools, now I think there is a much more engaged understanding of the relationship between theory and practice.
G:another question is about context. we had a discussion with Professor Preucel about context
J: Tell me about this discussion. He is a good friend of mine. When did you talk to him?
G: About two years ago I was in philadelphia and have a short discussion with him about context. We tried to publish a paper about context and different kind of context, for example archaeologist say that there are dead contexts and live contexts. The differnece is the agent is active in the live context and the agent is absent in dead context. Or for example about the dynamic context and systemic context I have some misundrestanding with systemic context; I think systemic context is the kind of context witch the archaeologist build in their minds with the concern of systematic theories. Is it true?
J: That’s not my understanding. Mike Schiffer proposed the term systemic context to refer to artefcts in use, prior to deposition, and prior then to being part of the archaeological record. So for Schiffer, systemic context is part of quite a precise terminology that he has developed to classify site formation processes. Hodder’s understanding of context, and my understanding of context, is much wider than this. It includes much of Schiffer’s concern but refer also to other concerns, for example the context of archaeological practice today, that is its context in a cultural, social and political milieu. Schiffer would reject such a very wide defintition and scope of the term, I think, viweing it as excessively imprecise.
Schiffer’s work is interesting bescause he has written and researched very extensively on site formation processes in a very processual and positivistic way, but he has also done some fascinating work on the history of technology. He’s written about radios and motor-cars, for example.
G: Coming back to live context and dead context. For example, in general we have an archaeological site simillar to bam, a citadel near a city that this is live and all people living there the citadel is in dead context and the current city is in live context.is it true?
J: Well, you see I don’t accept this split between dead and live contexts, at least not in such an absolute sense. It is, I feel, feel more complicated. Take the medieval castle we saw today. It is a ruin, but there were hundres of people there, tourists, workers, local people -- all using the place for recreation and other activities. Tell me that is a dead context or a live context? A very difficult question.
G:this is another question refered to the context we have original context and we have a secondary context. The thing that you mentiponed, this is not in original context this is not for life only some visitors being here and just enjoy it.
J: It’s true that the castle is not now being used for the purpose originally intended. However, let me explain what I mean when I say that your view is very black and white. The first phases of the castle site we visited was a Roman fort, occupied for maybe 200-250 years. The next phase is an Anglo-Saxon religious settlement of some kind; there has been a church on the site for over one thousand years. Then there is the Norman castle, which tiself was transformed into a luxurious residence 250 years after it was first built. It was used to hold prisoners of war two centuries ago, and as part of the defences against German invasion in the 1940s. And it continues as a public park and amenity today. Now, you tell me: which stages in the life of this site are ‘original’ or ‘live context’, and which are ‘dead context’?
G: I belive that every site is in the process of becoming an archaeological site. An archaeological site has no live agent; it is dead and there is no agent with original function. In fact an archaeological site is cut from its original context.
J: Well let’s talk about that We are sitting in this room in my home. The first thing is that this house is 115 years old so there are three or four previous generations in this house, each generation with a different kind of social organization – a household with servants, or a family, or a couple. At one time it iwas divided into two appartments at another time it was a home of people with mental disability so the first thing is that as we sit here, we are not in the primary or original context of the house. You can extend the same analysis to the artefats in this room; this is my mother’s chair, that picture we bought as an antique, and so on. Every thing in this room have a different original context
G: They have a diffrent original context or they have a diffrent history/biography?
J: What I’m arguing is that in fact there is a ‘primary context’ is problematic. Contexts where material in ‘prinmary context’ are preserved are very rare. We have Pompeii, Bam and we have other cases, but in most of time in archaeology materials are constantly being re-worked and re-used. The most intresting question about stonehenge is what happened at the end? There is no ‘destruction level’, nothing burnt or destroyed. It just seems one day people stopped coming to the site which they had returned to over and over again over 2000 years.
G:as I mentioned above as an archaeologist we give meaning to things but as an ethnoarchaeologist we have a chance to speak with live agents and we have no misunderstanding about the function and meaning of things.
J: But how do you know that? You say we have not any misunderstanding but I don’t think this is necessary true. There is no single ‘correct’ or final understanding.
G:we undrestand it through interview with the people. we asked them questions and they answer us. We found a ruined house that it is not exactly a house ,this is an unliving house .this is I think the context between dead context and live context. A house is completely ruined but all things is meaningfull.
J: But you have described to me how people came back to their house sites to retrieve material and in many cases to rebuilt, so I don’t accept that you can classify it as a dead context. It still has meaning for the people, even if it in ruins. This is still their house even if it has destroyed. Or take District Six in cape Town in South Africa. In the 1950s it was very densely occupied many different ethnic groups living together. The Apartheid government flattened the area and expleed its residents. However, Dostrict Six is still a place of memories; you can see the traces of houses in the grass, and former residents bring their memories to the local museum. As you have described it, Bam is like pompeii every thing just stopped on one day.