Each year, Glasgow Archaeological Society hosts the Dalrymple Lecture Series, a programme of themed talks which are hosted by a guest lecturer. This year's Dalrymple Lecture Series will be given by Professor Adam T. Smith, on the subject of The Civilization Machine.
This series of lectures is held over four consecutive evenings, starting on Monday, November 18th, 2019, and finishing on Thursday, November 21, 2019; each of these lectures begins at 6.30pm, except for the final lecture on Thursday, which begins at the later time of 7.30pm. Unlike our usual lecture programme, the Dalrymple Lecture Series are held in the Sir Charles Wilson Lecture Theatre on the corner of Gibson Street and University Avenue.
The Civilization Machine
Few intellectual turns have been more complete than the exile of the idea of civilization from the late 20th century historical imagination. What had been a bulwark of Whiggish historiography was relegated to the very margins of scholarly reflection, a tarnished, even archaic, term made ridiculous by the twinned shocks of world wars and decolonization. It has thus been quite surprising that the 21st century has brought with it the conceptual rehabilitation of civilization, both as a social formation and a chrononym for our historical moment. But while civilization appears to have regained some credibility as a descriptive term, it still lacks the analytic capacity needed to help us understand how it produces coherent large-scale communities and hence shapes the long-term histories of human societies. It lacks, in other words, a user manual that can define its conditions of assembly, its operation and maintenance, and how to troubleshoot failures.
In these lectures, Professor Smith will argue that civilization is not a state of being but a material apparatus, a complex machine that produces publics, human communities that understand themselves as coherent actors. This civilization machine thus not only informs our accounts of the past but also conditions our present and hence our possible futures. As human relationships with our material world have fostered increasing anxiety over the sustainability of civilization, it is imperative that we begin to gain a solid understanding of the logics shaping this powerful apparatus. The lectures take Bronze and Iron Age Caucasia as their primary focus as they move across the disciplinary terrain of philosophy, political science, anthropology, history, and archaeology.
Lecture One: Some Assembly Required: Origin Myths and the Making of a Public
Monday November 18th, 2019 – 6.30pm
The idea of civilization, a concept with deep roots in the Scottish Enlightenment, has received renewed attention in our era of global environmental, economic, and social crisis. And yet its’ recent resurrection has done little to address the concept’s inherited limitations as an aesthetic with little analytic power. This lecture introduces an analytic sense of civilization centered not on what it is but what it does. In particular, I am interested in three binary socio-cultural procedures vital to the construction of a public: being and not being, recognition and othering, seeing and unseeing.
Using the Early Bronze Age in the South Caucasus as a case study, this presentation introduces key features of the civilization machine, setting the scene both geographically and conceptually for the series.
Lecture Two: Operation: Bronze Age Metaphysics
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019 – 6.30pm
Fundamental to the operation of the civilization machine is the definition of being and not being, a etaphysical understanding deeply shaped by the world of things. Surveying the archaeology of Early, Middle, and Late Bronze Age funerary remains in the South Caucasus, this lecture examines the integration of human bodies into the civilization machine as communities work to partition the nature of existence, map the spatial distribution of being, and define a temporal process of becoming.
Lecture Three: Maintenance: the Useful Barbarian in the Age of Empire
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 – 6.30pm
No figure is as vital to the operation of the civilization machine as the barbarian, a conceptual figure that defines the boundaries of publics through the articulation of who is recognized and who is Other. Barbarians populate both the historical imagination of the “state of nature” and the “savage slot” that defines the antithesis of civility. They are also the quintessential Iron Age addition to the civilization machine. Taking the Kingdom of Urartu as a case study, this lecture will examine the role of nature and the barbarian in the technologies of alterity vital to the civilization machine in an age of empire.
Lecture Four: Troubleshooting: Archaeology and the Legacy of Genocide
Thursday, November 21st, 2019 – 7.30pm
Modernity has produced few disciplines more critical to the smooth operation of the civilization machine than archaeology. Archaeological research gives solidity and temporal depth to the publics manufactured by its operation. But archaeology also has a unique capacity to serve as witness to historical catastrophes, an ability to both see and to unsee that is vital to the epistemology of the discipline. Through an examination of contemporary archaeology in eastern Turkey, conducted in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide, this concluding lecture highlights both the failures of the civilization machine and its possibilities.
About the Lecturer
Adam T. Smith is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology and incoming director of the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies. Smith holds a Ph.D. (1996) and M.A. (1993) from the University of Arizona's Department of Anthropology and an M.Phil. (1991) from the Social and Political Science Faculty at Cambridge University.
His research is focused on the emergence of complex societies in the South Caucasus as a case study in the material constitution of political authority. Smith is a co-founder, along with Dr. Ruben Badalyan, of the joint American-Armenian Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies (Project ArAGATS), a long-term collaborative research project conducting diachronic investigations in central Armenia.
In 2014, he and Lori Khatchadourian established The Aragats Foundation, a public charity that seeks to harness the archaeology of Armenia to foster rural economic development (http://aragats.org). Smith is the author most recently of The Political Machine: Assembling Sovereignty in the Bronze Age Caucasus (Princeton 2015). His earlier work includes The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities (California, 2003), and the co-authored work The Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, volume I: Regional Investigations in the Tsaghkahovit Plain, Armenia (Oriental Institute Press, 2009).
He is a former Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of research awards from numerous public and private institutions.