Staša Babić

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Staša Babić


Staša Babić is a full Professor of the Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade. Prof. Babic served as Head of Department from 2009 to 2018. Currently she is the project leader of the ERASMUS+ project STEM in Heritage Sciences, exploring incorporation of new technologies in archaeological training, theory and practice. Her research focuses on theory in archaeology, Iron Age and Classical Archaeology of Greece. Her 2018 monograph Metaarheologija discusses the nature of archaeological knowledge, with an emphasis on the importance of collective knowledge versus paradigm shifts. One of the authors of the European Association of Archaeologists Statement Archaeology and the Future of Democracy ( ).

Opening Conference

Systematizing Archaeological Practices and Knowledges

From the last decades of the 20th century, it has become customary to systematize modes of archaeological knowledge into three distinct approaches: culture-historical, processual and postprocessual. The incommensurability of these strands of research has occasionally been emphasized by labelling them as distinct paradigms, evoking the work of Thomas Kuhn and implying that the turning points (1960s and again in 1980s) induced profound changes in the ways archaeologists gain knowledge of the past, so that the entire epistemological base of the discipline has been fundamentally altered (cf. Lucas 2016). In this way, a pattern is created presupposing some law-like force driving the development of the discipline on general level, resembling the mechanisms of unilinear evolutionary ladder of stages. The units not corresponding to this universal pattern are perceived as anomalies, resulting from some inherent deficiency and/or inability of certain archaeological communities to comply to the overall laws of progress. The archaeological communities of South-eastern Europe have long been considered as one such example of a scholarly environment in the state of “arrested development”, remaining prevalently devoted to the culture-historical approach and largely hesitant to engage in current theoretical debate. There is certainly merit to this assessment, as for various reasons this part of the world does not neatly follow the established pattern of the three archaeological approaches identified as clear-cut “paradigms”. However, it may safely be argued that in this respect South-eastern Europe is not an isolated example, but rather matches the majority of global archaeological experiences, from Japan to Latin America (cf. e.g. Chapman 2003). The conventional sequence: culture-historical, processual, post-processual, in fact reflects primarily the situation in one part of the European and, to some extent, North American archaeological community. Consequently, the current state of the discipline may better be described as a fragmented and multi-vocal landscape, rather than a single prescribed approach to be attained through rapid synchronization under the same banner. Furthermore, the scrutiny of some basic archaeological concepts (e.g. the very nature of the material we work with – the archaeological record, sensu Lucas 2012) indicates that the two turning points in the history of the discipline did not radically disrupt fundamental epistemological principles. This contribution therefore seeks to explore some of the ways in which archaeological knowledge is transferred and transformed in various interactions inside the discipline and beyond, and the reasons underlying the wide acceptance/rejection of certain approaches and theoretical propositions. These reasons include current institutional and socio-political circumstances of archaeological research, but also varying intellectual traditions on which diverse archaeological communities were formed. Discussing these issues may bring us closer to advancing the archaeological theory and practice in SE Europe, corresponding to the (past and present) particularities of the region, and at the same time resonating with the global disciplinary context.

Selected publications:

  1. Identity, Integration and Power Relations in the Study of the Iron Age, Fingerprinting the Iron Age – Integrating SouthEastern Europe into the Debate, S. Stoddard, C. Popa (eds), Oxford: Oxbow (2014), 295 – 302.
  2. Afterword – When Empires Collapse, Imperialism and Identities at the Edges of the Roman World, M. A. Janković, V. D. Mihajlović, S. Babić (eds), Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2014), 252 – 256
  3. Biography of a Hill: Novi Pazar in South-Western Serbia, The Lives of Prehistoric Monument in Iron Age, Roman and Medieval Europe, M. Díaz-Guardamino, L. García Sanjuán, D. Wheatley (eds), Oxford: Oxford University Press (2015), 249 – 264
  4. Theory in Archaeology. In: James D. Wright (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol 1 (2015). Oxford: Elsevier, 899 – 904
  5. (co-author A. Palavestra) False Analogy: Transfer of Theories and Methods in Archaeology (The Case of Serbia), European Journal of Archaeology, DOI: 10.1080/14619571.2016.1147314, ISSN 1741-2722 (Online)
  6. (co-authors: Raimund Karl, Monika Milosavljević, Koji Mizoguchi, Carsten Paludan-Müller, Tim Murray, John Robb, Nathan Schlanger, Alessandro Vanzetti) What is ‘European Archaeology’? What should it be? , European Journal of Archaeology , vol. 20, issue 1, 4 – 35 DOI: (Published online: 26 January 2017)