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Assessed Seminar: Archaeologies of the Contemporary World - ARC00089H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. John Schofield
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

For the first time, archaeologists are reflecting upon and investigating the world that humans currently occupy and that they are shaping in their everyday practices. In doping this, archaeologists often use conventional archaeological methods and theoretical perspectives to study a supposedly familiar world, challenging what Paul Graves-Brown has referred to as its ‘taken-for-granteds’. This often results in making the familiar seem very unfamiliar. This module will give students the opportunity to explore the full breadth of these archaeologies of the contemporary world through the themes, regions, materials and perspectives that interest them most. This is a creative and interdisciplinary field of study, yet one that remains grounded in material culture and the application of archaeological ways of seeing. Students will therefore be encouraged to think as archaeologists, but to venture outside of the conventional disciplinary boundaries to explore the very margins of archaeology, questioning its definition and its meaning.

Related modules

A directed option - students must pick an Assessed Seminar module and have a choice of which to take

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

Assessed Seminars seek to develop an understanding of a specialist topic (particularly a critical understanding of the key themes, approaches and opinions). In doing so students should be able to improve their knowledge of the subject area (through reading and preparation for their own seminar, their seminar contributions and involvement in the seminars) and also have the opportunity to develop their skills in chairing a seminar, presenting material and being involved in discussion (including thinking on their feet about the topic being discussed, how to engage interest in the topic and stimulate debate).

Specifically this module aims to:

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of archaeologies of the contemporary world, through material culture;
  • Develop critical insight on the ways that archaeology can provide unique perspectives on the contemporary world; and
  • Explore the relevance of archaeology in helping to better understand those challenges facing the contemporary world, and where we might look for solutions.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module the students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a familiarity with literature on the archaeology of the contemporary world.
  • Exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical, ethical and methodological issues related to the archaeology of the contemporary world.
  • Explore a range of case studies and the interpretations of them.
  • Prepare a worksheet which sets out key reading and issues for presentation, debate and discussion.
  • Chair a seminar, engage interest in a topic, stimulate debate and structured discussion.
  • Present on other subjects within the general theme and contribute informed ideas and information to the other seminars.

Module content

In a series of lectures and workshops, students will become familiar with the theme of the module. Students will then choose a topic around which they will design and chair a seminar. Seminars and class discussion will encourage a critical approach to the literature and provide preparation for chairing and presenting.

Students will explore a highly creative, contested and interdisciplinary branch of archaeology, through the landscapes, sites and artefacts that characterise the contemporary world. We will also explore some of the theoretical perspectives that best suit this field of study, along with the methods that can be used to investigate it. The module will also raise and discuss some challenging ethical issues. In summary, the seminars will ask the question: what can we learn about our contemporary world from archaeology that we cannot learn from other fields of study?


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
1 hours 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Contribution to seminars
N/A 10
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 1
0.17 hours 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 2
0.17 hours 20

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will hand in worksheets before consolidation week (in Week 5) so staff can work out a schedule for students chairing and delivering presentations. Students will need to hand in presentation slides by week 8, either with pre-recorded narration or without if they opt to do it live. Student-run seminars will run from Week 9 to Week 11 where students will chair a 1hr session. Within these seminars, contributions from students will be assessed.


Task Length % of module mark
Short report on best practice in chairing
N/A 25
N/A 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Pre-recorded presentation 1
0.17 hours 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Pre-recorded presentation 2
0.17 hours 25

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Harrison, R. and Breithoff, E. 2017. Archaeologies of the Contemporary World. Annual Review of Anthropology 46:1, 203-221

Harrison, R. and Schofield, J. 2010. After Modernity: Archaeological Approaches To The Contemporary Past. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holtorf, C. and Piccini, A. (eds) 2009. Contemporary Archaeologies: Excavating Now. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.