The relevance of Archaeology for 21st century India

July 24-25, 2018

National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

Archaeology in India today is both exciting and challenging. We must have all pondered on its relevance as archaeologists, whether triggered by questions in applications for grants or existential reasons such as future career options. Many concerns of Archaeology in India include the academic status of the discipline, sources of funding, the level of public interest, specifically the flagging congregation of students opting for Archaeology, as highlighted recently.

This conference is organised to continue these dialogues and broadly includes areas such as:

Development and archaeology in India today

 The large-scale changes on the landscapes due to spreading urban centres, agricultural expansions as well as mining and quarrying activities are aspects of Archaeology which is a well-known scenario in India. Yet our experiences in these instances remain within informal settings, however, we hope that this is an area in which we can have more conversations, and in analysing common experiences it is possible to look at possible future steps.

 Field experiences and concerns of archaeology 

 There have been some influential writings on Archaeological field methods in India. However, in general, the critique of methodology remains far more frequent from disciplines like History. Similarly, field experiences are hardly ever a part of the academic publication record. For instance, the gendered spaces that the ‘field’ in Archaeology takes on, or the ways in which our perception of what we encounter in an archaeological site is based on the training received, among others.

 Archaeology from the margins/archaeology in the periphery

 This topic can include spatial/geographic regions of India which are given limited attention, either due to perceived dearth of exciting finds or due to inaccessibility etc. It also is aimed to engage in discussions related to the way we think of about communities or groups who are from the margins of society.

 Heritage, politics and archaeology today

 How people perceive the past is something we as Archaeologists are often faced with, we are constantly required to explore the ‘use’ or ‘relevance’ of the discipline either to funding agencies or to governing bodies etc. Archaeology is often also involved in public interest in identity and politics. This topic aims to explore these various aspects of Indian archaeology.

Use of national and regional databases in archaeology today

The use of large/big datasets (including digital) in Archaeology is now quite prevalent. This also leads to debates on whether they should be open source, or limited in access to few people. It is an invitation to look at ways in which these datasets are published or shared. This is an aspect that interests academic and government agencies but for various reasons, may not receive critical scrutiny. This theme hopes to open up such questions.

Understanding medieval and contemporary human societies through archaeology

 This topic explores the idea of Archaeology as a source of material evidence. The limited use of Archaeology as a source of information for the medieval and contemporary periods is well known. Through case studies or critically analysing this question, we hope there can conversations that look at this topic.

Archaeological Science and approaches

 The use of scientific tools and techniques as well as the evolution of scientific temper in Indian Archaeology is not confined to contemporary case studies. Since the arrival of the ‘New Archaeology’, this has been a source of enthusiasm, anxiety and interest. This topic is aimed at exploring some of these questions in the Indian context.

 Public archaeology and archaeology in Indian education systems

 Archaeology is often included in the school syllabus, more so now than before, yet it is a part of Social Sciences in the school system. However, Archaeology is also an engaging way to involve both children and adults to learn and think about the past. This session is aimed at commenting on these aspects through experiences and studies.

The two-day conference invites individuals to submit an abstract by April 23rd , 2018. Upon completion of the review of abstracts, expanded papers for the selected abstracts would be solicited. The conference accepts submissions not only in English but also in any other official languages of India (for more information).

The invited speakers include Prof Lynn Meskell, (Stanford University, USA), Dr Prabhakar Nandagopal, (Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi), Dr Hemanth Kadambi (Independent scholar, Archaeologist, Bangalore), Prof Supriya Varma (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) and Prof Jaya Menon (Shiv Nadar University, NCR), Prof Sharada Srinivasan (National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore) among confirmed contributors.

This conference, in addition to the working academics, researchers and students, also encourages participation of individuals who work outside the traditional academic institutions/circles but are interested in these topics and can submit abstract of her/his work.

For any clarification, please contact

About the conference in Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Bengali