The world has changed drastically since the appearance of the first issue of this journal, in 1998 (vol. 0). Of course the constant reinforcement of the neoliberal way of life, and the crisis (“state of emergency”, actually) that it implies at the present moment, are no benefit for small non-profit associations like ADECAP, permanently at risk of extinction.
I remember the enthusiasm that my idea of creating ADECAP and JIA had raised in my friends here in Porto and elsewhere, and in general in colleagues, in Portugal, Spain, and beyond. JIA was, and still is (or intends to be), the only journal in the world of English language (now the international language of scientific communication) that brings Iberian archaeology and its questions and achievements to an interested audience. But ADECAP and JIA depend on certain supports, and first of all on the support of their own associates/readers. So I call all people interested in the maintenance of this activity to effectively help us. I would risk saying that we should be proud of what ADECAP has done, over all these years, to reach the goal of a greater internationalization to our archaeology.
I evoke with nostalgia a meeting of four friends (Susana O. Jorge, Manuel Santonja, Margarita Díaz-Andreu and me), two from Portugal and two from Spain, in the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca. That beautiful place in Iberia, where we planned with joy and hope the great lines of this project, and of the 3rd Congress on Iberian Archaeology. It was, if my memory does not fail me, around 1996 or 1997… What a long route made since then!
Speaking for myself, I could surmise in brief words my own trajectory.
Obviously, in studying the so called "prehistory", my interest was never a descriptive/narrative one – to know and expose how “they were in the past”, to tell a story, or the stories that make history in its traditional sense – but when I was young I was fascinated by the mythical problems of “origins” so typical of our culture. Origins of humans, origins of art, origins of thought, origins of architecture and the transformation of “landscapes”, etc., etc.
I know that this historical matrix is mythical – in the sense that there are no "origins" (except in very particular senses), but instead a continuous unfolding of new things with no beginning or end. Prehistoric archaeology took me very early in my career to a drive into anthropology. I always felt that I needed to get a distance from my own "culture", this our common Roman-Greek tradition, which functions as a screen to "prehistoric times". "Before the Romans"... it was my field of research - a search for the unknown, the other, the totally different.
Since the beginnings of the 90s I have read several papers by Tim Ingold, now Professor of Anthropology, Aberdeen University, Scotland. Then his book on "The Perception of the Environment" (Routledge, 2000 – pb 2002) appeared, and it was a revelation for me. Ingold was very much in the line (among others) of phenomenology, and in ecological psychology (James Gibson, etc.). Indeed, this is fascinating, because from that point he has been changing anthropology entirely.
For instance, our old common distinction of mind and body, of experience and thought, are dissolved. But indeed he goes very much beyond that, and he even proposes a dissolution of the boundaries of biology and psychology, etc. Actually, he is envisaging the base for a sort of “new synthesis”, in a certain way, or at least a completely surprising approach (see for instance his contribution to the book "Cycles of Contingency", ed. by Susan Oyama and others, The MIT Press, 2001).
Of course the very idea of thinking is to get rid of dogmas, whatever they may be, and to be cautious of any fixed set of ideas, even when we admire very much something or some line of thought. To think is like living in general - to compare, to get and to conserve, and moreover to discard, to pick from here and there, and to try to find our own way, our own voice, or own identity. Knowing that it is just the result of a particular combinatory that stays mostly unconscious. To do it with time, in spite of the “fast production” move that is so typical of neoliberal systems, for whom the university is ultimately just a machine to deliver new products for the market, demands a constant effort. Knowledge is not just a commodity as any other else: information. No, we do not want that.
I do not trust text books, superficial readings, things that I do not have the time to examine carefully by myself. But, tragically, life does not afford us that availability of time to study anything conveniently, when we are not only domestically concerned with our own “field” – within our productive cell, or our mental prison, in fact. To get out of that “prison” and to "feel free", but not becoming “out of mind”, lost, is indeed a very difficult task. Many do not take these risks... because it is an anxious experience and a very lonely one as well. There is no team-work possible in this auto-definition... Although “daily life” and the academy force us to be connected to a multiplicity of experiences, some of which are very rewarding indeed.
The book by Julian Thomas, “Archaeology and Modernity” (London, Routledge, 2004), and the lectures that he made in Porto that same year, helped me a lot. It was quite illuminating.
Aldo in 2006 I found the books by the Slovenian philosopher Slavok Zizek, now a very known author, whose work I had completely missed until that year. He is a Lacanian, and in a certain way a Hegelian, and a Marxist too.
He has a strange capacity to fly over the entire field of thought and to bring together things that seem to come from very different experiences and traditions of thought. Indeed, he is fascinating.
In 1996 I read his book, "The Parallax View" (MIT Press, 2006), where, among many other things, he refers to the Portuguese neurologist António Damásio.
And at a certain point (p. 227) Zizek writes:
“(...) what am I ? I am neither my body (I have a body, I never “am” my body directly, in spite of all the subtle phenomenological descriptions à la Merleau-Ponty that try to convince me to the contrary) (...)”
But the crossing between psychoanalysis and anthropology was never an easy one, in spite of the importance that the anthropological and archaeological knowledge of the time had in the very elaboration of Freud's explanations.
Today, with suggestions coming from the heterogeneous “field“ of “critical thought”, a conventional way of putting together people like Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Agamben, Deleuze, etc. the archaeologists are confronted with a very difficult task. To understand the human, the social, and society they cannot just ignore those authors. And their reading, and the fascinating links that we may create from that reading, are not an easy task…
Vítor Oliveira Jorge
(University of Porto)