Gheorghe Alexandru Niculescu is a senior researcher at the Vasile Pârvan Institute of Archaeology; educated at the University of Bucharest (1974-1978), Ph.D. in history (2000), archaeological training and research at the aforementioned institute (since 1985); teaches archaeological theory at the University of Bucharest; published research on ancient ethnic phenomena and on the impact of nationalism on archaeological research; published research on the politics of cultural heritage in Romania and its impact on the conservation and visibility of the artifacts; currently working on the global asymmetries of archaeological research and on the properties of typological thinking and its flattening consequences on the perception of the artifacts (preliminary findings presented at conferences held in 2016 and 2017).
Interdisciplinary practices and scientism
Learning from what happens outside the discipline of archaeology, especially learning from other disciplines, is crucial for its development, but many current interdisciplinary practices are not working to the benefit of archaeological thinking. Instead of examinaing whether the 19th century research questions about origins and identities are still worth asking, archaeologists from many research traditions still look for answers to them and believe that this could be done by gathering more data. They choose those disciplines that can offer additional information about their finds and mobilize representations of knowledge in which scientific methods are supposed provide valid answers even if archaeologists are unable to evaluate what they do, thus reinforcing explicit or tacit commitments that are not compatible with a scientific stance towards empirical evidence.
Haack, Susan. “Six Signs of Scientism.” Tarka 10, 2019, 11-30. The lecture on which this article is based can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0QmS783Kmw
Herzfeld, Michael. “Anthropological Realism in a Scientistic age.” Anthropological Theory 18 (2018): 129-150.
Kidd, Ian James. “Reawakening to Wonder. Wittgenstein, Feyerabend and Scientism”. In Wittgenstein and Scientism, edited by Jonathan Beale and Ian James Kidd. London, Routledge, 2017.
Kristiansen, Kristian. “Towards a New Paradigm? The Third Science Revolution and Its Possible Consequences in Archaeology.” Current Swedish Archaeology 22 (2014): 11-34.
van Fraassen, Bastiaan. “Naturalism in Epistemology”. In Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, edited by Richard N. Williams and Daniel N. Robinson, 63-95. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. [Willi15.b.pdf] The lecture on which this article is based can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kYRcibo_d8&t=1567s
Learning from art historical research
Archaeologists who expect research benefits from the cooperation with other disciplines, especially those who believe empirical research does not need theory, tend to use what genetics, physics or chemistry might bring and to ignore art historical research, although there is much common ground, best illustrated by those classical archaeologists who are at the same time art historians. An examination of the disciplinary trajectories of art historical research can help archaeologists better understand the possibilities and limitations of what they do and a confrontation with the history and current uses of the notion of style in art history could improve archaeological research, because it relies on interpretations of how perceived similarities are structuring material worlds. Art historical theories and analytical instruments can support the extension of archaeological interest beyond antiquities, to the whole field of image and artifact making, something that could help archaeologists understand themselves as image producers and interpreters.