Nature and Dynamics of Resilience and Vulnerability: A Decolonised Approach

Camellia Biswas, Doctoral Student, Humanities & Social Science, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, India

You can find and download a PDF version of this Essay at the long-term archive Zenodo under the following DOI:

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Resilience and Vulnerability are said to be closely linked and complement each other’s existence. They have, however, been separated by different academic communities due to a lack of interaction and conceptual constructs. This essay attempts to challenge the nature and dynamics of these two notions in academia, from the context of climate disaster using the case studies of Sahelian Droughts (16th century – present) and cyclonic blows in the Indian-Bangladesh Sundarbans (1800 – present). It will probe further into a decolonised ‘Resilience thinking’, where we will try to assess the durability and collapse of a particular society through a cross-society association. 

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On Theorizing Vulnerability for Archaeology

Caroline Heitz, SNSF-PostDoc.Mobility Fellow and Associated Researcher at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK

You can find and download a PDF version of this Essay at the long-term archive Zenodo under the following DOI:

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Abstract

In this essay, I would like to redraw some of the insights that we had regarding concepts of vulnerability during the plenary discussions at the workshop ‘Theorizing Resilience and Vulnerability in Ancient Studies (TRAVAS)’. Far from giving a precise protocol of what was said, the following lines are what I compiled from my notes after rethinking and reconsidering what we had discussed. Our reflections revolved around three fundamental questions, which I will also raise in this essay – without the aim, however, of finding conclusive answers to them: What is vulnerability? Can vulnerability be discussed without touching on resilience? What conceptualizations of vulnerability could be useful for archaeological research?

Unlike resilience, vulnerability has so far barely been addressed in archaeology. Although both terms, sometimes understood as counter concepts, have been used since the late 1990s, vulnerability seems to have received less attention, in theoretical as well as empirical archaeological research. It might be due to the vagueness of the term, the difficulty of relating such an abstract concept to archaeological finds or that research on human success is preferred over research on human failure. While the reasons remain unclear without a sound analysis of the history of science in this respect, our discussion first addressed the fundamental question of our understanding of the term based on what we had learned during the workshop. There are seemingly endless ways to conceptualize vulnerability, of course. In the following, I paraphrase my current view in the form of a lively first sketch, which could be completed into a more complete, balanced picture in the future.

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Memorial Stones and their Unknown Builders: Archaeology of Lesser-known Facts

Ahana Ghosh, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, India

Tanoy Sengupta, Indian Museum Kolkata, India

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Abstract

The Indian subcontinent has a long tradition of erecting commemorative stones for deceased ancestors. This tradition started in the Prehistoric Megalithic and is still in practice today. The purpose of the earthly rituals and rites concerned with death is mainly to eradicate the spread of pollution from the dead body and to transfer the soul successfully to another world. These memorial stones have different names in different regions, such as ‘Viragals’, ‘Gadhegals’ etc. The concept of the death cult is a widely discussed phenomena in Indian archaeology and centres around erected structures such as megaliths, satī-stones, samādhis, chattrīs, vndāvanas and unhewn stones. Despite some differences, the architectural features of memory stones associated with the concept of commemorating death have some uniformity all over the subcontinent throughout the time period under discussion. As there is no definite literary evidence, here the question arises as to who built these memorial stones? Was there any homogenous community especially associated with such practices? Uniformity in the execution procedure of these stones suggests a community that had been functional since early times. Our research will look for this lesser-known community, who have never been fully studied. It will further try to understand how these monuments have influenced the present communities and their impact on their daily livelihood.

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Resilience in the Diaspora: An Archaeological Approach

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You can also find and download a PDF version of the following Essay from the same repository under the following DOI:

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Resilience and Migration: Time for Changing the Paradigm for Archaeologists?

Dr. Sepideh Maziar, Goethe University of Frankfurt, Germany

Introduction

In the social sciences, there are different narratives of migration. In archaeology, however, this theme is conventionally tackled in many cases from within an old-fashioned traditional framework. Accordingly, some scholars consider it a mono-factorial approach that overlooks the complexity and diversity of other factors at play. Others ignore it, not wishing to be regarded as anachronistic scholars or as being trapped in culture-historical or diffusionist paradigms. In this short essay, I discuss migration in the context of social resilience by adopting approaches from human geography, such as translocality. I argue that this approach will be more promising in the context of migration in anthropological archaeology.

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Vulnerable Hunter-Gatherer-Fishers in Mesolithic Norway? Discussing the social impact of the Storegga tsunami 8200 years ago

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You can also find and download a PDF version of the following Essay from the same repository under the following DOI:

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Short essay based on the presentation at TRAVAS 2021

Dr Astrid Nyland, Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger, Norway

Background

My talk and essay present a new research project starting in January 2021 (https://www.uis.no/en/life-after-storegga-tsunami-last ). Our focus is the social impact of the Storegga tsunami that battered the western coast of Norway and eastern Scotland in 8200 BP, which was caused by a massive submarine landslide off the coast of central Norway and affected both sides of the North Sea. 

Our main concern is that, whereas the range and physical impact of the wave have been identified by geologists and palaeobotanists (e.g. Bondevik, Stormo, and Skjerdal 2012, Bondevik et al. 2005, Prøsch-Danielsen 2006), the social impacts of the wave have not been systematically investigated. Despite this, in archaeological literature the event is generally referred to as a disaster or catastrophe. That is, we know why, when and where the tsunami hit, but what were its social consequences? Our aim is to learn more about Mesolithic societies through the study of this large-scale natural event. 

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From Panarchy to Anarchy: The Relational Resilience of (More-Than-Human) Subjects in Processes of Subjectivation

Dr. Stefan Schreiber, Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz, Germany

You can find and download a PDF version of this Essay at the long-term archive Zenodo under the following DOI:

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Introduction

People can react resiliently to stress, endure it and emerge stronger from it. Why is this so? Usually, the reasons are sought in genetic dispositions, mental health or social contexts. So, is resilience based on the individual or on his or her environment?

In this conceptual text, which is the transcribed and revised form of short talk given during the TRAVAS workshop, I would like to outline a few thoughts that do not yet represent a completed concept or a finished research approach. They are fragments of an approach towards an understanding of relational resilience. This will serve to explore questions of psycho-social resilience and resilience factors archaeologically, without falling back into essentialist notions of the human psyche, physis or social context. The understanding of relational resilience is embedded in reflections on practices of subjectivation. They are intended to help me, and of course others, to understand how we can grasp the resilience of subjects without reducing it to the mind or the individual, as a member of society or as a human being. So, I am interested in the resilience of (more-than-human) subjects without presupposing reductionisms, such as methodological individualism or humanism, from the outset. 

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