École française de Rome,  Stadio di Domiziano |  Rome, 20th-22nd May 2015

The death is the only experience of life that unavoidably involves all but all can know it only through others experience, as it has been highlighted by Heidegger last century and as it has been seized very effectively by Luigi Pirandello when he wrote: «The living ones believe to mourn their dead but they actually mourn their own death, their own reality that’s no longer in the feeling of those who are gone». French sociological anthropology, from the beginnings of twentieth century, codified in the conceptual form of a rite of passage, what the ancients have already exemplified in a metaphor of journey and transition; moments and events about death, for its condition of absolute liminality, therefore represents the core of collective experience and necessary mean to overcome that limit (limes) that allows to transit from one condition that’s no longer to a new dimension, variably intended from culture to culture.

In that sense the death is the ultimate metaphor of border, of a “limit” that paradoxically is reached in the moment when we aren’t no more, and therefore we cannot tell about it. A borderline, as defined, although it’s a purely cultural construct, contributes to codify and strengthen the identity of realities that live on its margins. This is also why, the death as a border can contribute to define the identity of each one of us, because it’s the highest point – natural or not – of the existence, and at the same time, the extreme act of earthly experience. It’s the only tale we cannot tell but it’s also the one through which other can tell about us, or the perception as Pirandello describes, they have had about our “reality” or even better about themselves through our “reality”. A symbolical story, intimate and paradoxically choral, that nowadays we are used to experience in the form of television obituary and/or taking part at funerals. The death is also a biological event, during which the body goes through a metamorphosis that makes it transit from body dimension to mineral one, returning back to substance, in a process that can be altered randomly and/or intentionally by nature and by culture, providing space for ritual practices and/or cultural of symbolical codifying of our earthly essence, even those varying form society to society related to a notion that everyone of them can have dialectics between life and death, between death and what it’s supposed will follow after it.

Who is confronted with past must necessarily overcome this border, outlining the features by what survives after it.

The third edition of the meeting Anthropology and Archaeology at comparison – taking a starting point of a wider retrospective observation recently merged into the volume Archaeology and Anthropology of Death: History of an Idea. Semiology and funeral ideology of protohistoric level communities in theoretical observation between anthropology and archaeology, Bari 2015 – (Nizzo 2015) will face these complex issues and provide to public and specialists an overall picture of the most fruitful theoretical approaches and the latest investigation methodologies put in place by cultural anthropology, archaeology, bio-archaeology and archaeothanatology to seize the essence of this border, to decrypt the language of gestures, signs, feelings, rituals, fears and emotions that help to define it, with a focus on protohistoric level societies extincted or persistent but with an eye looking also to the contemporary, as always with an ambition like God Giano with two faces looking to the past in order to capture the essence of our present.

At the time depth of archaeology and its epistemological tradition with the material concreteness of our essence and our gestures will correspond, almost inevitably, the ability to synthesize and relativize to which belongs cultural anthropology, able to penetrate the complex mechanisms of ritual abstraction proper of human behavior, highlighting the emotional stratigraphy as well as conscious and unconscious contradictions of our feelings and our actions and the way in which we try - as far as possible rationally - to understand them and to decrypt them.

Among the issues upon which major international specialists will compare in an interdisciplinary dialogue (archaeological, anthropological, bioarchaeological, archaeothanatological, semiotic, philosophical) stand out those related to the reconstruction of the ritual landscape and ritual performance, as interpretation of funerary praxis in its formal outcomes and in those deviant - in dual and often exciting implications of necrophilia and necrophobia – at analysis and reconstruction of the issues concerning the perception of death in its material and symbolic implications and its ritual abstractions (discussing themes and categories such as embalming, the tanathosemiotics, the Anthropopoiesis, materiality/corporeality, individuality/dividuality, material engagement, enchainment etc. etc.), to the issues concerning the potentials and limitations of sociological and historical reconstruction through the investigation of the practices and funerary ideology and, more generally, to the discussion of the underlying problem of what is and is not and what it means or doesn’t mean (in a semiotic meaning) a burial.

For those reasons, the results of this conference will provide one of the most ambitious and updated summary of the most controversial and complex aspects of historical debate on the society of the past and, at the same time, an important and in many ways unprecedented moment of reflection on one of the stages paradoxically more meaningful of existence itself, to the limit of being, when oneself finally reaches its fulfillment in the very moment when it’s no longer – when exists no more.

In the spirit that animated previous conferences of Anthropology and Archaeology at comparison and due to the multidisciplinary nature of the meeting, the purpose that it serves, as well as the breadth and complexity of topics, the contributions will necessarily be structured in a way to provide a summary of the issues discussed, to highlight first, with examples drawn from actual cases, methodological problems and the main interpretive perspectives implemented to contend them.

Whilst privileging reports on agricultural communities of pre-industrial and protohistorical level, are especially preferred and encouraged interventions highly interdisciplinary, without any specific limits on the geographical and/or chronological plan, as long as susceptible to a confrontation and a specific discussion, in theoretical and methodological framework traced for each of the sessions outlined below.

  • March 20th 2015: delivery of abstract relations
  • March 22nd 2015: selection of contributions and communication of the outcome to the proposers
  • April 6th 2015: definition and online publication of the provisional agenda, with its abstract
  • April 26th 2015: delivery of abstracts extended relations and/or the final texts of the contributions
  • May 2nd 2015: on-line sharing of texts in a dedicated section of editor’s profile, activating a special “session” to discuss contributions and gather questions and comments; online publication and disclosure of the final program of the meeting
  • May 2nd 2015-May 19th 2015: deadline suggested for enrollment to the conference of auditors who need a certificate of participation; registration will also guarantee access in case of places depletion.

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