Yannis Hamilakis will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Thursday, April 1, at 12:15 pm. His talk is entitled “Transient Matter: ‘Exhibiting’ the Assemblage of Contemporary Migration.”

This talk will reflect on the epistemic, ethical, and political challenges faced in organizing the exhibition Transient Matter: Assemblages of Migration in the Mediterranean, currently on view at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University. The exhibition is based on a research project Hamilakis has been carrying out (centered on the border island of Lesvos in Greece) since 2016. It is an archaeological ethnography and a study in contemporary archaeology of border crossing and migration at one of the major entry points from the Global South to the Global North. It is based on the premise that the material expressions of the assemblage of migration—from detention and registration centers to solidarity camps, and from objects discarded during the crossing to artifacts made by border crossers from found and recycled materials—tell stories about the phenomenon that cannot be told otherwise. In addition, their sensorial and affective impact and their mnemonic weight have the potential to intervene in the contemporary global debates on migration, on borders, on new forms of segregation, on what it means to live in the new normal, which Hamilakis has called the new nomadic age. But what happens when things that have been designated as trash and environmental pollutants enter the museum space? How does one deal with the dangers of museification and aestheticization? And how can we do justice to the transient nature of such objects?

Yannis Hamilakis is Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and professor of Modern Greek studies at Brown. His main research and teaching interests are the socio-politics of the past; the body and bodily senses; the archaeology of eating and drinking; the ontology and materiality of photography, archaeology, and nationalism; archaeological ethnography; and critical pedagogy in archaeology. His main geographical research focus has been Greece and the Aegean, and although much of his fieldwork is to do with the prehistoric (Neolithic and Bronze Age) Aegean, he is equally interested in the archaeology of the contemporary. In fact, many of his projects are multi-temporal. From 2007 to 2010 he directed the archaeological ethnography project at Kalaureia (Poros) Greece, and since 2010 he has co-directed a major new field project, the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography Project. This centers around the excavation of an important Middle Neolithic tell site in central Greece but also includes ethnography, as well as a range of art projects, including a theatre-archaeology program. In 2016, he started a project on the archaeology and archaeological ethnography of contemporary migration, focusing on the border island of Lesvos. Based on this work, he recently co-curated the exhibition Transient Matter: Assemblages of Migration in the Mediterranean, hosted at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University.