Saturday, November 26, 2011

Call for Papers and Objects

Papers and Objects are solicited for a session on the archaeology of contemporary protest movements at the upcoming TAG-USA conference in Buffalo, NY, May 17-20, 2012.


Call for Papers
Session: The Archaeology of Contemporary Protest Movements
What can archaeology teach us about events as they unfold? We invite papers that take an archaeological perspective on current events, such as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, the ‘Arab Spring’ or the recent riots in the UK. This session is designed to explore what archaeology can contribute to understanding fast moving events with short-lived and transient material traces. How might an archaeological standpoint contribute to understanding the politics of cleaning and garbage; the (im)materiality of protests; and the tensions between ephemerality & commemoration?

Call for Objects
Exhibit: The Archaeology of Occupy Wall Street.
The Center for Archaeology is also putting together an archive of Occupy Wall Street artefacts: handouts from OWS-related demonstrations  - such as those of Oct 5 and November 17- or from Zuccotti Park itself; artefacts recovered from the trash, and artefacts recovered from the gutters around Zuccotti Park early in the morning on November 15 and November 16. These objects we intend to use for an exhibit "Occupy the display cases!" If you have any artefacts, objects, papers that you would like to see included in this exhibit, or if you would like to see the artefacts (perhaps for use in or as inspiration for a paper) please contact any one of us.

For more information:
Mark Mulder
John Molenda
Amara Magloughlin

A bundle of links: post-eviction debris

First of all, the New Yorker has an interesting article up on the origins of OWS.

Archaeological Materials

In the very early morning of Tuesday November 15, around 1am, the NYPD moved in to clear Zuccotti Park of its occupiers. The press was kept largely at bay, which makes the event altogether more interesting for us as archaeologists, as good reports of what happened in the park are few and far between. A NYT eyewitness report can be found here and here's another at Mother Jones (which has video). Live-reports can be found at this OWS website, at BoingBoing, at Gothamist, where there is good ongoing coverage, such as this recently posted video.

The morning after the eviction I went to Zuccotti Park, my photos can be found here. The park is clear, but debris from the occupation remained, especially in the gutters. I made my round sifting through the gutters from the Orange sculpture in the southeast corner toward the west and then around the park. The first things I noticed was change. Lots and lots of change: pennies and nickles mostly. Going through the gutters taking pictures of objects in situ before picking them up attracted attention and as I got to talk with a number of people I learned that earlier that morning (I arrived around 8:30am) people had already been seen picking up change. This would explain the lack of quarters and dimes.

A second notable category of objects was formed by the broken tent posts: I encountered more than I collected.

Among the further objects I collected: two brass spoons covered in silver, medical supplies (unused injection needles, a penlight for testing pupil reflexes).

Moreover, plenty of objects - possessions of OWS'ers - had been flushed down the storm drains, such as these kitchen utensils:

More pictures can be found in this Flickr set and this Flickr group.

The objects I and my colleagues collected during this visit and others are kept at the Columbia University Archaeology Lab.

These objects were among the debris of the eviction that stayed in situ, but most others were removed by the NYPD and brought to the NYC Sanitation Department - ostensibly so that people could come and pick up their possessions. This in turn became problematic as possessions often turned out to have been destroyed even when returned. One major instance is that of the laptops and other possessions, including the issue of whether or not the city has destroyed and damaged the Occupier's library books, which they took during the eviction - and again after re-opening the park.

And what's next? Here's one plan for further protesting the city's space.