Towards a Heideggerian archaeology?

Peter van Dommelen (pvdommelen@RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL)
Sun, 19 May 1996 14:02:53 -0200

Towards a Heideggerian archaeology?

Some years ago, Tim Murray noted cynically that theoretical =
archaeologists have been optimally foraging the social theory =
bookshelves of their local bookstores. After the decline of =
processualism in the eighties, a whole pantheon of philosophers, social =
theorists, and literary critics was invoked to substantiate and perhaps =
even to legitimate the postprocessual agenda. Apart from Giddens, =
Wittgenstein and Habermas, particularly French intellectuals such as =
Godelier, Bourdieu, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, Deleuze, Kristeva, =
Althusser, Barthes, Braudel and Ricoeur were given the banner to guide =
our explorations in the archaeological past and in archaeology's present =
practice. Their ideas were paraphrased and rephrased by archaeologists. =
Sometimes this archaeological transformation has resulted in new ways of =
seeing, yet sometimes it also saddled us with simplistic =
transplantations and painful mutilations of often much more subtle ways =
of thinking. It seemed sometimes that a postprocessual career could be =
built on an intense reading, superficial or subtle, of one single and as =
yet undiscovered author, followed by a number of publications which =
underline the archaeological relevance of his oeuvre, in order to have =
your name associated with the chosen thinker.

Despite these optimal foraging strategies, Martin Heidegger's work was =
only very recently brought into the theoretical arena. Christopher =
Gosden's work Social being and time (1994) was the first full-length =
consideration of the implications of Heidegger's thought on =
archaeological theory. And in the spring or summer of 1996, Julian =
Thomas will publish Time, Culture and Identity, in which he attempts to =
sketch out a 'Heideggerian archaeology'. This recent interest for a key =
figure in continental philosophy by Anglo-saxon practitioners of =
archaeology, drew our attention, especially since providing a forum for =
discussion between the Continental and the English-speaking worlds is =
one of the main objectives of Archaeological Dialogues.

Despite some of the abuses in the past of social theory and philosophy =
for archaeological purposes (which Thomas calls 'all off the peg uses' =
of theory ), the editors of Archaeological Dialogues found the =
publication of Thomas's book a good occasion to open the discussion =
about Heidegger and archaeology. We hope this may stimulate further =
debate and make a contribution to the development of archaeological =

Archaeological Dialogues 3.1, the first issue of 1996, is therefore =
largely dedicated to an extensive and exciting debate on the =
prospectives and impossibilities of an archaeology inspired by the =
philosophy of Martin Heidegger. The debate is opened by Julian Thomas =
who recapitulates the major themes of his new book Time, Culture and =
Identity. Comments are given by Chris Gosden, Susanne K=FCchler, Th. =
Oudemans, Mark Patton and James Weiner. Finally, Thomas answers to his =

Archaeological Dialogues 3.1 furthermore contains short notes by Chris =
Chippendale on the writing of archaeological texts, David Fontijn on the =
cultural biography of a Dutch Bronze Age landscape, Antoine Mientjes on =
Ray Laurence's use of spatial theory in Pompeii, Tim Murray on identity, =
nationalism and archaeology and Alexander Verpoorte on Palaeolithic =
alliances according to Clive Gamble.

Archaeological Dialogues is an English-language journal aiming at the =
promotion of theoretically oriented approaches in archaeology which go =
beyond traditional archaeological issues and consider historical, =
social, as well as philosphical perspectives. As the title suggests, =
debate and dialogue of both specific case studies and abstract themes =
play an important part in the realization of this objective.=20

For more information on the new issue of Archaeological Dialogues and on =
the journal in general, please consult our WWW homepage at =

Jos Bazelmans, Peter van Dommelen, Jan Kolen, Jan Slofstra and David Van =