Overview: December 2003
My dissertation focused on the creation of notions of identity through performance (the things that people do, both in ritual and day-to-day life) and deposition (that is putting things in the ground). I looked at two Neolithic sites in particular, both ritual enclosures which were built and used in the mid 4th millennium BC. My main aim was to create complex notions of personhood, identity, age and gender drawing on, and combining, the work of philosophers like Michel Foucault and Judith Butler with that of anthropologists such as Marilyn Strathern. I also tried to take their notions of identity, personhood and regulatory ideals (that is notions that are created for us to live up to, like male or female) and combine them with the more creative agency and practice centred approaches of Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens. I called this theoretical understanding of action performative practice. I looked at a range of activities at both sites and tried to create narratives around them that could challenge western, hegemonic notions of identity that are too often thrust unwarranted into the past.
Since finishing my MA I have started work on my PhD, this deals with many of the same themes examined in my MA, but expands upon them, both in theory and application. Whilst again looking at notions of agency, practice, identity and gender I have now turned to examine how emotion and memory play crucial roles in how societies work, particularly amongst small scale social groups. In order to do this I have been looking both at Amazonian anthropology and the work of Maurice Bloch amongst the Zafimaniry people of Madagascar. My work is again focused on the Neolithic, but this time I hope to look at 3 regional areas, Dorset, the Upper Thames and the Fen edge in Cambridgeshire. I hope to accomplish something of a "temporal slide" over these three areas, looking at Early, Middle and Late Neolithic sites. This will allow me to deal with the full range of Neolithic monuments as well as the settlement evidence. I will be looking at both published and unpublished work, and thus have had to communicate with the great and the good of the archaeological world. I hope that the PhD will build on the success of my MA dissertation to offer an in-depth, applied account of how complex notions of people, animals, personhood, identity and emotion existed in the past and how they interacted to produce the material remains we call the Neolithic.
Outside of this I hope to begin taking first year seminars next year, and to jointly run a session with my supervisor Prof. Alasdair Whittle at next years TAG (theoretical archaeology group) entitled the Archaeology of Love and Anger.