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Chris Gosden

United Kingdom

Chris Gosden has been in Oxford for the last 25 years, first as a curator-lecturer at the Pitt Rivers Museum and then as Professor of European Archaeology. Chris Gosden has carried out archaeological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Borneo, Turkmenistan and Britain, among other places. He is currently setting up research collaborations with China and Mongolia. While at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford he worked on the history of collections and their relevance to post-colonial relations and identity, including two large projects – Relational Museum Project. More recently he has run research projects on the history of the English landscape published by OUP in 2021 as English Landscapes and Identities, and on Celtic art both in Britain and in Europe including Eurasian links. He has recently published a book called The History of Magic (Penguin, 2020). He is currently writing a book called Humans: The First Seven Million Years. He is a trustee of the Art Fund, Oxford Archaeology and the British Museum, and a fellow of a number of learned societies, including the British Academy.


To some degree, the notion of modernity has been long critiqued, starting at least with Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern and in Julian Thomas’s Archaeology and Modernity. The notion of modernity was born in Europe, but has been exported in a surprisingly unchanged fashion to many other parts of the world, such as China or India, where local philosophical systems have had surprisingly little influence on archaeological practice. As an alternative a series of archaeologies are possible based on a great range of epistemologies around the globe, which will add range and depth to our notions of the past. The idea of emancipatory archaeology can help dismantle deeper systems of thought, including categories of action, cause and effect, race, gender and sexuality. A plurality of world archaeologies is obviously attractive, but we could ask how far plurality can stretch? Might it be possible, for instance, to identify varied epistemologies and approaches to the past within Europe? If this were possible, might it be feasible to see a Balkan archaeology which has a different grounding in thought to archaeologies as practised in other parts of Europe? This is a question I have some thoughts on, but would really welcome input from colleagues at the conference who are directly involved in Balkan archaeology what they think. The paper which sketch out a framework for thinking about a variety of archaeologies, which might liberate us in various ways from our general thoughts about the past and end with questions about how far this can be used in local contexts.