Archaeologies of the Present Workshop

Archaeologies of the Present:

Critical Engagements with Post-industrial

Urban Transformations

an International Workshop hosted at

Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

August 3-7, 2014


Link: Information for Participants

Workshop Scope

The purpose of this five-day workshop is to establish and strengthen dialogues between scholars engaged in urban contemporary archaeology research. The workshop’s design aims to:

  • strengthen the existing international community of contemporary archaeologists both in the emergent sub-field and in the wider discipline of anthropology
  • develop specific theoretical and methodological positions that emphasize the importance of material approaches in investigating post-industrial urbanism.

Using site-based engagements in Detroit as a common case studies, workshop participants will focus on the political, social, economic and cultural material realities of ‘now’ while engaging with the latent agency of post-industrial places to creatively re-emerge, transform and reposition themselves in the near future.


The workshop presentations, site visits, and discussions involve engagements with three overlapping topics within the broader study of post-industrial urban transitions:

  • Creative Engagements with Post-Industrial Cities  
  • Ruination
  • Materialities of Political and Social Mobilization

Participants will present research related to at least one of these topics. Their research and the resulting group discussions will serve to redirect the contemporary archaeology research agenda firmly away from recent critiques of “ruin porn” and modernist-influenced approaches to the past.


What is Contemporary Archaeology?

Contemporary archaeology is defined as a practice that uses archaeological concepts and methodologies to engage critically with extant material remnants in, and of, contemporary societies. Influenced by earlier modern material culture studies in anthropology, over the past decade contemporary archaeology has emerged as a dynamic force for dissecting and contextualizing the material complexities of the present day.

Workshop Participants & contributions

With a primary interest in spurring conversations about contemporary archaeology among new mixtures of scholars, Archaeologies of the Present has been intentionally designed as a small, invite-only workshop involving a group of participants with diverse approaches to practicing contemporary archaeology:

April Beisaw  Vassar College, New York

Seeking the Real Ghosts of Ruined Places: Contemporary Archaeology of a City’s Water System

Alfredo González-Ruibal Institute of Heritage Sciences [Incipit] & Compultense University of Madrid, Spain

Ruins of the South

Rebecca S. Graff  Lake Forest College, Illinois

 Embers from the House of Blazes: Fragments, Relics, Ruins in Chicago, 1871-2014

Laura McAtackney  University College Dublin, Ireland

Materialising segregation in the post-industrial city: the Belfast of murals, memorials and community museums

Paul R. Mullins     Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana

 The Archaeology of Absence: Displacement, Effacement, and Conflicted Heritage

Sefryn Penrose    Atkins Heritage, London and University of Oxford, England

Workshop Presentation Title: (forthcoming)

Ian Alden Russell  Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey

 An Innocent City: Modestly archiving everyday Istanbul

Krysta Ryzewski   Wayne State University, Michigan

Making Music in Detroit: Acoustic Place-making AND Urban Heritage In a post-industrial city

Courtney Singleton    Columbia University, New York

The Rupture of Home: A Contemporary Archaeology of Violent Dispossessions within Homeless Encampments

Carolyn L. White    University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada

The Archaeology of Art in the City of Berlin

with Additional Contributions From

John Chenoweth  University of Michigan, Dearborn

contemporary & historical archaeologist, ruins site visits

 Andrew Newman  Wayne State University, Michigan

Social & Political Movements Site Visits 

Julia Yezbick      Harvard University, Massachusetts

Creative Engagements Site Visits &

Screening of Her Film Into the Hinterlands


Organizers and Sponsors

The Archaeologies of the Present workshop is co-organized and co-hosted by Laura McAtackney (University College Dublin) and Krysta Ryzewski (Wayne State University). The workshop is supported by generous funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University. Krysta Ryzewski, Laura McAtackney and Rodney Harrison (University College London) created the concept and design for the workshop, as detailed in the Wenner-Gren funding proposal.

LinkS to More Information about Contemporary ARchaeology

Selected Bibliography of Contemporary Archaeology Publications

Contemporary Historical Archaeology in Theory Group & Annual Conference


Link: Information for Participants