Poor and invisible – on the archaeological traces of the subaltern2020-10-05
Traces of crofters, cottagers (backstugusittare), artisans and workers in the city – usually referred to as the dispossessed – can be found everywhere in the countryside, forests and cities but are rarely noticed by traditional archaeology. Through the new book “
De obesuttnas arkeologi– människor, metoder och möjligheter” and the conference “Subaltern 2020”, researchers want to shed light on this invisible group of people.
The subalterns were people who lived under precarious conditions and who left few archaeological traces or data in the archives or on the map. In the project “ The archaeology and heritage of the subaltern”, researchers from Karlstad University, Lund University and the National Historical Museums have tried to shed light on their living conditions and cultural heritage, for example, through archaeology. Eva Svensson is a associate professor in medieval archaeology and professor in environmental science at Karlstad University, and one of the authors behind the book.
“Through the project, we have been able to show how archaeology can contribute to increased knowledge about the lives of the subalterns in different social contexts from the time around 1700–1900. In the book, we have summarised what we know today, as well as suggesting approaches for future research. Our aim has been to increase the knowledge about the subalterns, those with little or no possessions and who are a largely invisible group in history”, says Eva Svensson.
Conference about the subalterns
The background of the project was a change in legislation that came into force in 2014. The Cultural Heritage Act was amended so that remains from human activities and settlements dating from before 1850 are protected by law. This meant that more remains than before could be studied archaeologically, offering new opportunities for the cultural heritage of the subalterns to be noticed and given a more prominent place in history.
It was also against this background that Jönköping County Museum, the Archaeologists, the National Historical Museums, Lund University and Karlstad University recently organised the conference “Subaltern 2020”. In addition to Eva Svensson, who was one of the organisers, Peter Olausson, senior lecturer in history at Karlstad University, also participated in the programme. The conference was held partly on site in Nässjö and partly online. Karlstad University was responsible for the digital part of the conference.
The project “ The archaeology and heritage of the subaltern” was conducted between 2017 and 2019 at the National Historical Museums within the theme “Sustainable Preservation and Management” and was funded by the Swedish National Heritage Board. Participants included Eva Svensson; Pia Nilsson, doctor in agrarian history and cultural environment specialist at the Archaeologists; the National Historical Museums; and Martin Hansson, senior lecturer and associate professor in historical archaeology at Lund University.