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15 June 2021
The archaeology of marginal places and identities
Subaltern communities have received increased attention in archaeology since the 1980s. This is particularly the case in historical and contemporary archaeology, where researchers have explored the lives of slaves, the working classes, the colonized, prisoners, the poor, and homeless people. This themed issue intends to expand on the topic by investigating the relationship between marginal communities and marginal places and by bringing together cases from prehistoric to contemporary times. Papers will be welcome that go beyond places specifically allocated to the subaltern and therefore part of hegemonic spatialities—such as slave quarters or slums—and explore interstices that defy sociospatial stratification.
Interstitial space, including what has been described as “terrain vague”, has been used for cultural and political resistance (as with protest camps) and for carrying out illegal activities (such as graffiti-making, smuggling or moonshining). It is also the kind of space where marginalized communities settle, temporarily or permanently, including refugees, undocumented migrants, homeless people, indigenous communities evicted from their ancestral lands, low-castes and Roma. While interstitial space has proliferated in recent times, it is not unknown in earlier periods, where it has been often overlooked or dismissed by archaeologists: here we can include what has been often described as squatter or “residual” occupations and reoccupations. Ruins, abandoned settlements and city margins have been the abode of marginal peoples for thousands of years, but squatter occupations have been often considered simply a nuisance or mere agents of post-depositional disturbance by archaeologists. Interstitial space, however, is not just a place where marginal people live, but also where marginal, counterhegemonic identities are produced, as in the case of maroon and Roma communities. The issue is open to case studies from rural and urban environments and everything in-between.
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