Buchli and McGuire discuss their projects in Russia (Kazakhstan) and North America (Colorado), dealing with the relationship between archaeology and material culture studies today – understanding the material past in the present. They reflect on the craft of archaeology as a mode of cultural and political critique. They also disagree vehemently about Marx and the politics of archaeology. (Editorial note: Due to scheduling, Buchli and McGuire were in Stanford at the same time, so we made the most of this opportunity and asked them to converse with us together. We hope the importance of this opportunistic pairing will surface for the reader in the conversation.)
Michael Shanks: Let us begin with you Victor. You are based in University College London, and UCL, specifically the department of anthropology, has made a concerted effort over the last few years to come to stand for material culture studies and a distinctive version of that. You have also edited the UCL reader in material culture studies. Given your links to, and background in, archaeology, can you describe to us what this project of material culture studies represents? How does it connect with the general goals of archaeology?