Contemporary archaeology - towards a creative political economy 

Prof. Michael Shanks, Professor of Classics, Stanford University Archaeology Center and member of the Center for Design Research, Stanford’s School of Engineering 

Wednesday August 30th, Opening Ceremony, 16.00-18.00 hrs., auditorium 1 

What is archaeology become in a runaway world of disconcerting and disorienting change? How best might we understand archaeological practices in our contemporary context of radical changes in the cultural politics of pasts in the present.


This keynote offers a vision of a cocreative answer and future to these issues by looking back through the genealogy of academic archaeology, taking us back to the transdisciplinary eighteenth century when, contrary to orthodox histories of the discipline, antiquarian pursuits were the model of experimental scientific research -creative learning that transcended later disciplinary borders, offering orientation upon the radical shifts occurring in the political economy of newly emerging nation states.


We share the same antiquarian imagination as those times, albeit evolved with the global spread of the nation state and the institutionalization of knowledge industries.


The need and opportunity remains to embrace open and inclusive approaches to past-present articulations in a creative political economy of knowledge production. What is new? The means of knowledge production are now potentially more open and widespread. Drawing on examples from the academy, from the arts, from the corporate world, and from popular culture, Michael shows how the “republic of letters” is (potentially) returned, transcending science and humanities, with added and powerful valencies in a libidinal cultural economy of memory and identity politics.

Short biography 

Michael Shanks is Professor of Classics, senior founding faculty of Stanford University Archaeology Center, and a member of the Center for Design Research, the “” in Stanford’s School of Engineering. He received his BA and PhD from Cambridge University, and was chair at the University of Wales, Lampeter before moving to California in 1999. Michael’s research interests include design history and theory; performance design; archaeological theory; heritage studies and archaeologies of the contemporary past; the archaeology of Graeco-Roman urbanism; the regional archaeology of the English-Scottish borders. Recent books include Archaeology in the Making: Conversations through a Discipline (edited with Bill Rathje and Chris Witmore, 2013); Archaeology: The Discipline of Things (with Bjørnar Olsen, Tim Webmoor and Chris Witmore, 2012), The Archaeological Imagination (2012), and Greece and Rome: A New Model of Antiquity (2018). His work in heritage and cultural policy tied to strategic foresight and innovation includes ten years as advisor to the Mayor and City of Rotterdam, academic advisor to the Historic Vehicle Association of America, and consultancy with many Silicon Valley companies and agencies.

Welcome at the 23rd Annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists

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