Happy New Year

One of the many inspired things in Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch is a long list of celebratory antics for football supporter’s New Year, which should be held in May, on the evening of the Cup Final. People who work in education have their own special New Year too, at least in the UK, where almost all academic institutions start their new teaching intakes in September. We started teaching this week and so I have been celebrating by giving my lecture notes for the coming semester a much needed brush up.

Nowadays, of course, all these notes are PowerPoint presentations. I don’t really see the value of a PowerPoint presentation unless it has got a lot of pictures in it. Mostly with my teaching this is not a problem; archaeology is a very visual subject after all. However, one of the courses I have been tweaking this week is Archaeological Theory. Some of the lectures there are a bit tricky to illustrate. For example, what does a paradigm look like exactly?

My stock solution to this problem is to use Google Image search to turn up photos of the great and good of academia. These I then use to brighten up the slides – I’m not sure how precisely looking at a photo of Thomas Kuhn helps students understand paradigm shifts but it deals with my fear of text-only slides. All these portraits, of course, come from one of two sources. Either publisher’s blurbs for books or university web-pages. What I have noticed this week is that the real superstars in the Pannini Album of academia always pull the same pose for their publicity shots, even over a thirty or forty year career.


There is often a head/hands combination thing going on. Pierre Bourdieu favoured the hand supporting the chin, presumably because otherwise his mouth flopped open in astonishment at the dazzling brilliance of the concepts in his head.


By contrast, Paul Feyerabend needed to use his hand to keep the enormous contents of his brain from leaking out.


Louis Althusser often used a pipe in what was either an Inspector Maigrait or, surely much more plausibly, an Eric Morcambe tribute.


Bruno Latour is clearly much too busy using his hands to talk with to ever put them anywhere near his head.


Oh no! Someone has spilt Michel Foucault’s pint.. …again.

lewis binford

Continental thinkers are obviously more relaxed about having ‘smartarse’ as their job description. By contrast, the Anglophones are determined to show that they are not just a dazzling intellect. Lewis Binford takes the golf buggy for a spin.


Julian Thomas dressed for machine watching at Stonehenge.


David Clarke gets on with some DIY at Great Wilbraham.

Normal service should be resumed next week.


  1. Archaeology humour! Rick, that’s hilarious, and there’s me thinking you guys are all so serious!

    My 12 year old just stunned me this week by telling me he wants to be an archaeologist. An archaeologist in the family… I’d be so proud! Well his actual words were he wants to dig an old sword out of the ground lol! I didnt disillusion him!

    On hols in Greece he found a piece of pottery in the sea near an old byzantine church. He brought it home and showed it to his history teacher who thought it might date from the 5th or 6th century. Think hes got the bug! My son, not the teacher…

    • digging old swords is cool – don’t tell him they are usually just a crunchy red/brown streak in the soil by the time we get to them 🙂

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