CFP: The Meeting of the North American Theoretical Archaeology Group, Toronto 2017


Theoretical Archeological Group—North America
The Medium is the Message: Media and Mediation in Archaeology
May 18-20, 2017

Our website is live at and accepting submissions.

Session proposal deadline: January 15, 2017
Paper abstract submission deadline (to session organizers): March 15, 2017
Completed session rosters due: March 15, 2017
Early bird AND participants registration deadline: March 15, 2017

You can also follow us for updates on twitter, at @TAG2017Toronto and on facebook, at TAG North America.


In recognition of the contributions of Toronto scholar Marshall McLuhan, the theme of the meeting is:
“The Medium is the Message: Media and Mediation in Archaeology.”

The theme is intentionally broad and highlights how existence is profoundly conditioned by the material world, an issue that has been of central concern to archaeologists as well as to posthumanists and new materialists in other disciplines.  In the oft cited aphorism, “the medium is the message,” University of Toronto philosopher Marshall McLuhan (1964) intended to stress how technologies, especially print and later digital media, transformed human cognition and social organization.  In a similar vein, archaeological publications commonly declare that social relations, political inequality, and structures of practice were “mediated” by landscapes, ecologies, and assemblages of things and technical orders.  In a sense, mediation becomes synonymous with process itself.  In a recent publication, Arjun Appadurai (2015) has critiqued Latour and other proponents of the material turn, and he proposes that a focus on “mediants” and “mediation” permits more historically sensitive analyses of the formation of diverse social collectives entangling people, places, and things.  At the same time, archaeological research is an inherently mediated enterprise, for interpretation relies on the traces and material signs of past practices.  As Zoë Crossland recently noted (2014: 3): “Archaeology is the exemplary discipline of signs, spinning narratives of past worlds around the material detritus left in the wake of human lives.”  Thus a diverse number of sessions could be considered, ranging from the effects of new digital media on archaeological inference to the problems inherent in archaeological attempts to mediate or translate indigenous lifeways.

Session themes could also address: mediation and materiality; media and aesthetics; the politics of mediatization; mediation as semiosis, media of archaeological interpretation, trace as medium, media of religion and ideology; the present as medium of the past (space as medium of time  and history)—and so forth.

In appreciation of the first President of the University of Toronto, Daniel Wilson (who is credited with coining the term “prehistory”), sessions exploring the history of archaeological thought would also be welcome, along with themes not directly related to media and mediation.

Works Cited
Appadurai, Arjun  2015.  Mediants, Materiality, Normativity.  Public Culture 27(2): 221-237.
Crossland, Zoë  2014  Ancestral Encounters in Highland Madagascar: Material Signs and Traces of the Dead.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McLuhan, Marshall  1964.  Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw Hill.