Getting The Dirt on Punk Archaeology: InDIGnant Zine Hopes To Change Archaeological Culture

“If I can reach a number of archaeologists and they read these pieces, maybe they’ll be inspired to take them into account when they do their research.”

InDIGnant: A Zine by and for Activists, Feminists, Punks, Queers, Anarchists, & Coprolite Disturbers was edited by Meghan Walley, a Masters of Archaeology student at Memorial University (MUN).

Walley was inspired to compile the zine after speaking with a number of archaeology students who were frustrated by the lack of focus on social justice in their field.

Walley had recently seen a presentation on “punk and anarchist archaeology”  at a Society for Historical Archaeology meeting. The presentation called for an approach to archaeological writing that was less academic, more informal and accessible.

Walley reached out to passionate people with radical perspectives on archaeology and asked them to contribute to a quintessential punk project, a zine.  She was thrilled by the response she received.

In an opening letter on the first page of the zine, Walley writes, “This zine was born of discontent. It is the kind of discontent felt by archaeologists, all wierdos in our own right, who have become confined and restless socially, politically, and academically.”

Like many zines, “InDIGnant” employs a mishmash of genres including illustrations and comics along with short essays and poems. The pieces cover a wide range of topics from ableism within the archaeological community to the importance of consulting Indigenous communities about archaeological research on their land.

“It mostly comes down to representation, in a lot of ways when archaeologists look at the past it’s through a really limited view of the world … A lot of our norms get projected onto the way that we interpret the past and I think that’s a problem because those aren’t norms that have always existed and it doesn’t really capture the full range of human diversity” Walley said.

Walley’s MA thesis is on non-binary gender in pre-contact Inuit culture.  She explained that archaeologists tend to break activities down according to a gender binary (i.e. women’s activities and men’s activities).

For her research, she looked at several museum collections and tried to interpret them with a more complex approach to gender. She also conducted interviews with LGBTQ and Two Spirit Inuit to try to understand what impact doing queer research might have on their lived experience.

Walley says that the idea of doing queer archaeology is still very new and her work is often perceived as being “niche.”

In addition to her opening letter in the zine, Walley contributed a poem about the importance of doing archaeology in a way that doesn’t erase queerness. One stanza reads “because here’s the thing:/i refuse to believe that adam and eve/only ever had eyes for each other,/that there wasn’t one single ancestor in my lineage who was just as/queer as i am.”

These powerful lines are especially impactful when read alongside Walley’s opening letter, which finishes by telling the reader that despite the frustration expressed in the zine, the project is really proof of the contributors’ love of archaeology.

Walley writes, “The passion in these pages is an outgrowth of…the desire to change archaeology so that it might learn to properly love us back.”

Walley got funding from MUN’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences to print the zine. She plans to hand copies of “InDIGnant” out at archaeology conferences, her hope is that it will find its way into the receptive hands of people who haven’t been exposed to some of the ideas discussed in the zine.

“If I can reach a number of archaeologists and they read these pieces, maybe they’ll be inspired to take them into account when they do their research” Walley said.

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