Queering the Field: Archaeologies of Sexuality, Gender, and Beyond

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Queer as a theoretical tool formalized in the 1980's and 90's amongst debates concerning definitions of gender, sex, and sexuality. Although queer theory began as a way to interrogate heteronormative assumptions around sexual identity and sexual oppression, it more broadly questions any and all notions of fixed difference. The queer movement challenges the very notion that anything is “normal” or stable, from the construction of social identity to institutional structures and practices. In archaeology, this has led to a diverse body of research that includes topics such as family structure, kinship, intersectionality, chronology, social identity, and bodily performance. Although queer archaeology has grown enormously in the last 15 years, it remains at the outskirts (pun intended) of archaeological discourse. In this light, this session explores what queer is and its applicability to archaeological examinations. Session participants will explore recent archaeological case studies using the following questions as a frame: What is queer (queer theory) and why use it in archaeology? Is there a unified sense of what it means to “do” queer archaeology? In what ways has queer theory impacted the field and in what ways can it? And where do we go from here?

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-6 of 6)

  • Documents (6)

  • Ambiguous Iconography: Queering the Shell Game (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dawn Rutecki.

    This paper queers archaeological interpretation by unpacking and destabilizing underlying assumptions in Southeastern iconography. While not focusing expressly on sexuality or gender in these representations, this research discusses the ways ambiguities in engraved shell iconography, more broadly, have been dismissed, glossed, and deemphasized. In part, this exclusion is unintentional and results from the amount of research that remains to be conducted on the vast body of images, but we need to...

  • Criterion Q: Archaeology, Context, and the National Park Service’s LGBTQ Heritage Initiative (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan Springate.

    The National Park Service (NPS) is undertaking a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Heritage Initiative. Purposes include increasing the number of LGBTQ historic and heritage properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and as National Historic Landmarks (NHL), as well as encouraging interpretation of LGBTQ history at sites managed by the NPS. The creation of an archaeological context facilitates the evaluation of properties under NRHP Criterion D and...

  • Out in the Field? Queer Archaeologists, Queer Archaeology, and CRM (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Casey Campetti.

    A perennial critique of cultural resources management (CRM) has been its perceived overemphasis on field methods and its dissociation from advancements in archaeological theory, particularly the integration of gendered archaeologies and feminist perspectives. Over the past two decades CRM has made considerable gains toward inclusivity of theory - however, the climate for queer practitioners in CRM working as field technicians, managers, and principal investigators does not readily reflect these...

  • Queer and Complex: Everyday Life and Politics in Mesoamerican Prehistory (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chelsea Blackmore.

    When we speak of complex societies, archaeologists focus primarily on broad systems of power, socio-political access, and economic control. These discussions, both explicit and implicit, continue to be framed by heteronormative, androcentric and classist assumptions. Elites and men (as conceptual and literal heads of households) remain the primary frame of reference for how states operate and who and what matters in our discussions of complexity. In this paper, I explore how notions of...

  • Queering Historical Worlds: Disorienting Materialities in Archaeology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joel Lennen. Jamie Arjona.

    This essay draws from contemporary strands of affect and materiality in queer theory to discuss approaches to queer materialities in archaeology. This attempts to move beyond privileging sexual acts and orientations as defining queerness (Blackmore 2011), towards vast assemblages of human and material convergences that queered social norms (Chen 2012). The provocative capacities of bodies, both human and non-human, to disorient social norms offers archaeologists alternative perspectives on...

  • Teaching on the Down-Low: presenting queer theory to a broad audience (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jo Burkholder.

    Because we so often think about archaeological theory as something for "advanced" students, and gender and queer theory still regularly get little 'air-time' in most courses, it is unusual to introduce students to these perspectives at the level of general education and introductory course work. Personal experience in teaching Archaeology of Gender in two religiously conservative states - Kentucky and Wisconsin - over the last 15 years suggests that there are ways in which we can move students...