Recently while reading Mary Ann Levine’s “Presenting the Past: A Review of Research on Women in Archeology” (in Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, 5(1): 23 -36; 1994), I realized that my situation is not necessary so different from women of the first and second generations of Americanist archaeology, that is, of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. This is despite the fact that the article is 19 years old. While women in academic posts were rare, other career avenues became a way for them to practice in the field, including among others, museum and government positions such as the NPS, and independent research. Granted, such avenues held little of the prestige of academia, and that is still true today to a large extent I would argue. More important than prestige from my point of view is the much greater difficulty, though not to say impossibility, in procuring research funds as an independent scholar. No matter how much one is willing to do on a “volunteer” basis, there comes a point for those of us who are not independently wealth when some work (electron microscope analysis, x-ray fluorescence analysis, remote sensing) simply will not happen without funding.
These observations and experiences relate to what the writer shared in the August 23, 2012 post “Welcome Back to the Classroom!” In relation to that post as well as this one, I too, served my stint as an adjunct before re-entering CRM, which in turn has been hard hit and less than steady employment in these economic times. In addition, government positions, which I have also held in the past, are hotly sought after and as difficult to land in the current economic climate as academic positions. The situation runs the distinct danger, and I would argue is already there, of being that postulated by the economist Robert Reich in his book Aftershock in which he points out that in such an economy colleagues who otherwise serve as a support group for each other end up fighting for the scraps of employment that remain. While academic opportunities shrink, other public and private sectors offer some options but are not the fields of opportunity they once were as the opportunities there shrink, too. I point this out in the hope that we will actively support each other rather than look down on or feel at odds with those with whom we are in fact competing for any open positions.
Still, I continue to look for research opportunities and visit archaeological sites of interest to me and of value to my work. My recent trip to New Mexico led me to some “ghost towns” (some with more the ghost quality than others, which have simply become very, very small towns), including Hillsboro with the ruins of a late 19th c. jail, of interest to me as in extension of my jail research in Michigan. Such pursuits help keep me professionally and mentally alive, if not wage earning.
Hillsboro was located on a major 19th c. cattle trail.
Despite the growth and success of feminist archaeology, women in archaeology still face issues not necessarily encountered by their male counterparts in the 21st Century. Legacies of past discrimination, particularly the perceived and/or actual demands of family life, have resulted in disproportionate fewer women working at research institutions in many disciplines, including archaeology. This disturbing trend has profound implications for not only the direction of current archaeological research, but also the training of future scholars.
This blog is a forum for advocating for women archaeologists so that we can move beyond legacies of inequity to a future that strengthens a feminine voice in archaeology and a feminist perspective. We contend that the very practice of archaeology is skewed towards a masculine and hierarchical perspective that excludes consensus building and “minority opinions” when interpreting the past. We argue that the feminine voice brings unique and necessary elements to the discipline of archaeology, through values such as mentoring and collaboration. We also clarify that a feminist perspective is not limited to any one gender, class, race, ethnicity or sexuality. Rather a feminist perspective is a radical point of view; one that recognizes that women’s success professionally and personally is integrally tied to larger socio-political movements dedicated to the eradication of homophobia, racism, and androcentrism.
Our hope is to solicit advice, perspectives, and experiences from all realms of the archaeological profession- including tenure-track and adjunct faculty, CRM professionals, and those not currently employed or underemployed. The ultimate goal of the blog is to shift the realities of power experienced in the daily lives of women archaeologists by discussing, inventing and offering solutions to the challenges of professional life.