Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas in England: Part Tree. Tagging Along at TAG Manchester 2014

TAG 2014 in Manchester.

Sitting in the conference reception area while the first (afternoon) sessions are in progress. I'm feeling way too much like an ethnographer right about now and not enough like an archaeologist. I know  almost no one here, although last night I did meet the balding pate sitting at the left of the red settee in the foreground. He's Ray Rivers, a physicist from University College London. He accompanied Paul Preston (Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation), Katie Davenport-Mackey (Leicester), and Tom Elliott (Worcester) and me last night while we had real ale and Chinese food in the north quarter of old city Manchester.

My analogy up above refers to what Iain Davidson once told me is the fundamental difference between the role of ethnographer and archaeologist. Most field ethnography is undertaken by solitary individuals who set themselves apart from their subject; most field archaeology is undertaken by small hordes of well-socialized people in an intensely social context. My own personal circumstances are such that, while I like people, I have trouble inserting myself into their society, unless invited, and then only if I have no reason to think I'll be negatively judged. So, at times like this I spend a lot of time acting like an ethnographer wishing I could be doing field archaeology! Can you say, "Wallflower?"

This profoundly influences my experience of events such as this, as you might imagine!

"Why," you ask, "aren't you sitting in on the papers?"

Good question. My only answer is that, at the moment I'm overtaken by my worries about how I'll come across tomorrow afternoon during my 15 minutes of fame, discussing false dichotomies like science vs who knows what, and the notion of data vs data-free archaeological interpretation. And I got tired of sitting here trying to write what amounts to a 'paper' on epistemology and getting hopelessly bogged down, when all the while I'm supposed to be getting ready to comment on a bunch of live presentations about the substance of which I can only vaguely guess at the moment, based on some fairly abstruse abstracts.

Worse, I'm not much at extemporizing. So, if you're pretty good at math you can calculate that the next 24 hours are gonna be pretty unpleasant for me! Hence my present behaviour--using you as an excuse not to think about what's ailing me. I do hope you'll forgive me for exploiting you in this fashion!

Never fear! Relief will arrive in the near future--the Plenary lectures that begin at 17:30, and the Wine Reception at 19:30!

Ahh . . . the life of an itinerant archaeologist!

Envy me, if you will. I think I'd gladly change places with you right about now!