Sally Binford at the SAA

Logo for the 84th Annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, showing text with date and location information, and a southwestern black figure pot

Today marks 10 days to go until the official start of the 84th Annual Society for American Archaeology meeting in Albuquerque, NM. This is the first SAA meeting I’ll be attending — last year I couldn’t afford to go and prior to that I was and undergraduate in Toronto and didn’t have the kind of financial support that would have allowed me to participate. The fun part of this year’s SAA is that I know, through relationships I’ve cultivated on Twitter, quite a few people going. So despite the fact that only one two other people in my program are attending, I’ll still (hopefully) have people to hang out with. The daunting part is that I’m making my SAA debut with a paper that is equal parts biography, righteous anger, and call out– I’m using my platform as part of the ‘Sins of Our Ancestors (and of Ourselves): Confronting Archaeological Legacies’ electronic symposium to talk about Sally Binford’s life, the dual legacy of both Binfords, questions of authorship and credit in archaeological work past and present, and, finally, to echo a call made many times before for a more socially responsible archaeology.

Image of two women, Sally BInford (center) and her partner Jan, and a black standard poodle, Jake. Sally is laughing and looking into the camera, Jake is looking toward the camera, and Jan looks off to the side.
Sally Binford (center), her partner Jan, and her beloved poodle Jake. Photo taken by Honey Lee Cottrell circa 1980.

My paper, “…and his wife Sally”: The Binford Legacy and Uncredited Work in Archaeology began first as a way for me to honor Sally, the woman who, without having any direct contact or impact on my scholarship, has still been integral in my formation as a young archaeologist. I submitted the abstract back in August of 2018 and, as these things happen, my concept for the scope and focus of the paper has shifted a bit over the last seven months. Sally’s life and academic career remain central to the paper, as does the concept of uncredited work in archaeology, but the desire to address institutional issues in determining authorship in archaeological work lead to the addition of sections examining the duty of care professional organizations and universities have to graduate students and early career researchers. In addition to this, I’ve also added sections discussing the idea of practicing “socially responsible” archaeology. I used the term “socially responsible” not because I dislike “activist” or any of the many other terms that have been used to describe an active interest in practicing archaeology in a just and accountable way. Instead, I like “socially responsible” for its breadth and applicability to a variety of situations. I particularly focus on the need for archaeologists in positions of relative power to go beyond verbal promises or surface gestures, and to actively involve themselves in any of the hundreds of social issues that face not only the descendent and stakeholder communities we work with, but, oftentimes, our fellow archaeologists. As I state in the paper, for archaeologists who are BIPoC, or queer, or trans, or disabled, or women, or any combination thereof, “…expressions of personal belief are inherently political and instantly codified as ‘activism’ whether that is the intention behind such actions or not…”.

My goals for this paper are threefold:

  • Provide a space for a biographical spotlight on an important archaeologist whose life and work has often been overlooked
  • Encourage professional organization and educational institutions to look over how they support graduate students and ECRs in regard to authorship and joint research with faculty
  • Inspire self-reflection in archaeologists who enjoy relative positions of power in our field, and urge archaeologists in general to continue working towards being a socially responsible discipline

My paper is part of a larger electronic symposium, which means our papers will all be posted online prior to the conference to give SAA members the opportunity to review them and come up with discussion points. On Thursday April 11 from 6-8pm my fellow symposium participants will gather in Room 115 Brazos, present a short 5-7 minute summary of our paper, and then the floor will be opened for discussion and debate of the topics highlighted by our individual papers. From what I’ve read of the other papers so far, it will absolutely be an incredibly engaging and worthwhile event to attend at the SAA meeting. Over the next week or so I’ll be focused on putting together my short presentation, and reading and annotating all of my fellow panelists papers so I can arrive as prepared as possible.

Image of Boca Negra Canyon trail showing rocks and wildflowers, with hills in the background.
View of Boca Negra Canyon outside Albuquerque, one of the areas of Petroglyph National Monument I’m going to try and visit on my trip. Image by Jaclyn Michelle.

In addition to SAA work, I’m also going to be doing a LOT of lecture prep over the next few weeks, as my OLLI courses start the week I get back from NM and I’m nowhere near as far along with those as I wanted to. And I’ve also realized that the Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting in Syracuse is sneaking up on us and is only a little over a month away, so I should probably start working on that paper too.

Cheers,
Liz

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