Welcome to tonight’s annual accessibility archaeology post from me as the Lonely Archaeologist. I started this blog because I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with the way archaeology is practiced in Australia if you are not able bodied and *normal*; I’ve had significant challenges to overcome in studying my masters but I see my tenacity and persistence as character traits a good archaeologist needs along with the communication skills to explain to a diverse public and community what we are doing and why.
So I started this blog as a way of practicing those skills in heritage appropriate and adjacent areas for a disabled archaeologist like myself because in the current culture of heritage management and industry in Australia, I’m no better than broken goods. I’ve been denied field work opportunities because of my situation.
So I sought out opportunities on my own initiative where I found some smaller opportunities, a demonstration at the SAM and a presentation for National Archaeology Week which is where I first noticed the problem of disability within archaeology. Yet I’m unable to find placement as a volunteer to excavate anywhere or even considered for survey work. The resistance is such that I can’t dive for medical reasons so maritime archaeology isn’t open to me at Flinders (I even tried to enrol in a conservation fieldschool as a terrestrial archaeologist last year but was rejected). It was because I wasn’t going to be “able” or physically strong enough to join in carrying heavy equipment because of my chronic pain.
I can’t even get work as tour guide at a library, local museum or any other state institutions though I’ve applied for many open positions despite doing extra training on my own time and being in the leadership program run by Flinders careers called The Horizon Award. That’s me with the head of the SAM at a Night Lab event in 2016, I actually I volunteered at the previous one less than half a week after being hit by a tram. That’s how much I love archaeology.
I spoke up on this little blog about my difficulties in finding acceptance at Flinders by other archaeologists & students and I quoted the only blog post I could find even addressing rates of disability and archaeologists. The Enabled Archaeology Foundation found me, a group of dis/Abled and Enabled who have created a family of archaeologists, allies and students from a wide international community. We have a model of archaeology that aims to be inclusive and accessible for all who want to be involved, in so many different ways, across so many branches of archaeology that is a whole lecture in itself [Edit: given October 2017].
I’ll detail them over the near future if I can get my ten minutes of fame at Flinders, but if you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know I’m a gigantic academic fan of Doctor Who and time travel in general. In fact, last year I almost had a chapter published based on queer attitudes in archaeology and in science fiction in Beyond Indy and Lara.
That is me on a ghost hunt at the Old Gaol trying to get review experiences of Haunted Horizon’s award winning tour. I started a blog to try and showcase local tourism and arts. It ended up becoming a vechicle that gave me a research interest! So I merged my love of Doctor Who with my new found interest in Enabled archaeology and discovered my disability was actually a dis/Ability according to Doctor Who’s representation of archaeologists.
A conclusion I reached, when I was studying Doctor Who’s vision of archaeology in the future for the EAF conference in Feb 2018, is that dis/Ability doesn’t matter and accomodations for it weren’t questioned in the television program. I was encouraged that most well known archaeologist in New Who, Professor River Song, was a psychopath.
There was also Jack Harkness, a pansexual time agent who was pretty close to Lara Croft’s tally of historical misdemeanours in hisattitude to antiquity and the sale of black market artefacts, but deviated from the Indiana Jones stereotype (of a rugged Howard Carter manly adventuring tomb raiding mythology type) to a queer and deviant figure. Sadly even poor Lara had to be more macho than the men and was prey to toxic masculinity so Jack was a breathe of fresh air.
Here are some famous British examples of archaeology of the speculative future and neither of them are like the models we have in Australia. In Australia, I was told you have to be physically fit to be an archaeologist by the local chapter of ACCAI (when doing research for a talk about “archaeology 101”). I wonder at the you have to “be fit” comment in particular (part of me is wondering if my plus size had to do with it?!). After giving that NAW talk and parroting that archaeology requires spectacular levels of awesomeness, I realised that what I’d presented was wrong. I decided to try and change what I could in my own sphere of influence.
River Song fought against her mental illness/injury her entire augmented life span and yet no one asked her if she should really be an archaeologist with her mental health condition.
These two characters and adding the space archaeologist, Berenice Summerfield ( in the Big Finish extended Whovian universe), are holding space (quite literally) for diverse, Enabled archaeologists like me to be included as part of that interpretation of the future. Enabled archaeology and the EAF starting in Britain is a huge part of this shifting consciousness of inclusion and accessibility in archaeology but that’s not the case in Oz. My new mission is about expanding the experiences and diversity in the cultural heritage as a discipline.
Still many of the archaeology establishment in Australia haven’t the foresight to see this how times are changing that accomodations are accepted rather than the exception. I’ll post more on this and how it all relates to a book with the title “Time travelling and the future of the past” by Professor Cornelius Holtorf and how my ideas were received in conversation around the visit to Flinders about these changes happening all over the world. I imagine after looking through Holtorf’s book that lived experience and the futurism of archaeology is going to be a fascinating conversation.
Clara Santill, 2017