An Afghan man’s most precious surviving personal belongings, Athens, 2019.

Dr. Rachael Kiddey
will present at the Archaeological Encounters Seminar on Wednesday, September 29, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “‘People Need Stuff, Right?’ Contemporary Archaeology and Social Activism at Sites of Forced Displacement in Europe.”

In this presentation, Dr. Kiddey draws on recent contemporary archaeological fieldwork conducted in three European locations: Plymouth (UK), Athens (Greece), and Krokom (Sweden). Using a combination of participatory ethnographic, anthropological, and archaeological methods, Kiddey’s current project called “Migrant Materialities” involves working with displaced people to co-document the places and objects which shape their lived experiences. Sites include the street, parks, squats, cooperatives, NGO spaces, and temporary apartments. Relevant material culture consists of a wide range of domestic objects and personal belongings which function as mnemonic devices, convey diverse experiences of loss and change, and capture the effects of globalization, racialized immigration policy, and rampant capitalism.

This talk draws on prefigurative anarchist practices and theory to argue that collaborative contemporary archaeological work can be a powerful form of social activism, for several reasons: i) in recording the actual (as opposed to planned) material conditions of forced displacement in Europe, Kiddey and her collaborators contribute vital new evidence of otherwise mostly dematerialized, economic narratives; ii) their work highlights the agency and competence of displaced people and shines a critical light on the humanitarian sector; iii) their work includes displaced people as equal partners in academic research, e.g. as photographers, translators, fixers, etc.; iv) their work challenges dominant anti-migration narratives by visualizing and materializing the range of complexities involved with forced displacement at a human level.
Rachael Kiddey is British Academy Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Her current project, “Migrant Materialities,” looks at the role of material culture in situations of contemporary forced displacement in Europe between 2018 and 2022. She received her PhD from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York in 2014. Her doctoral research involved developing pioneering methodologies for working archaeologically with homeless people, documenting how heritage can function in socially useful and transformative ways. This research was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Widening Participation Award in 2012. Her monograph Homeless Heritage was published by Oxford University Press in 2017, and it won the Society of Historical Archaeology’s prestigious James Deetz Book Award in 2019. Kiddey is a senior common room member and college advisor at St Antony’s College, Oxford and an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London.

This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.