Saturday, October 9, 2010

X-rated Archaeological Research

So this is an attempt to live up to [my pledge] to incorporate more stories from my life into the blog to further this nebulous idea of "zeitgeist" in the world of us Saboteur Academics.

I am a student in an Anthropology program at a university in San Francisco. Some of my classes involve theoretical critique, some look at specific case-studies (ethnographies) of various peoples, and others are dedicated to practical experience working as an anthropologist.

My Fundamentals of Archaeological Theory class is just that.

This might seem confusing. Fundamentals? Theory? What's so practical about that?

Well, I have no idea either. Academia often doesn't make sense, but it's the job of a student to make methods from madness in order to receive that shiny diploma. So, with the flow I go!

We've recently gotten our group-project assignments. Our job: to conduct archaeological research at a site -- given to us by the instructor -- utilizing a particular theoretical approach ([Marxism], [Processualism], [Historical Particularism]). Our group was assigned [Queer Theory].

And our archaeological site?

A strip club.

[The Lusty Lady, on Kearny Street in San Francisco]

Yes, me and my four female group members must go to this strip club and conduct "serious" archaeological research utilizing Queer Theory to present our findings in front of our class. Even more challenging, we must do so without using traditional methods of presentation. No PowerPoints here. Our options include a song, poetry, a play, quiz show, perhaps a formal debate -- the options are endless! (As long as they don't include a lecture.)

It should be... interesting to say the least. Especially since I have a girlfriend.

As soon as I got the assignment I immediately called to make sure it was alright. Naturally my girlfriend has enough class in her pinkie to play it off like a splash of water. She laughed, and asked to hear more details when we talked later.

Perhaps the most... challenging aspect of this project will be getting close enough to talk with the dancers, without getting TOO close for comfort. I'd rather not have to buy a lap dance just to ask a few research questions. Actually, being the poor student that I am, I'd rather not have to pay for anything! (We'll see how that goes. In my limited experience, strippers are a catty lot when you don't drop a couple of bucks on the table for their time.)

But on a more bro-note: guys, if you had to do some tedious archaeological research, wouldn't a strip club be an awesome place to do it??

Anyhoo, I'll keep ya'll updated with events as they transpire.


7 footnotes:

Mira said...

One (European) question: what is ARCHAEOLOGICAl about it? How do you guys (in the US) define archaeology?

We (Europeans) define is as a study of past through analysis of the material culture. "Past" can be recent past (in the extreme cases, perhaps, no past at all)- but there MUST be material sources.

I understand archaeology and anthropology are seen as basically the same thing in the US (well, they go together- not so here!), and there are not-quite-nice reasons for it, but I fail to see what is archaeological about this research (since you have to use interviews and not material sources.

PS- Why female strip club?

Zek J Evets said...

That's a good starting question actually, mira! European and American archaeology have divergent histories, but the same basic foundation: study of human culture through material remains. In Europe, I understand archaeology is an individual discipline, whereas in America it is found as a branch of anthropology.

as for the interviews, i need to do those as a courtesy to "pay back" the inconvenience of having to do research at the strip-club. (in anthropology this is called "reciprocity".) i think the idea is to include the dancers' (and other workers') opinions about the site in our final presentation, especially as it relates to our theoretical approach. ultimately however, we will be researching the items in the strip club -- from the chairs to the nipple-tassels -- and this will necessitate our own intrusion into these people's space.

as for WHY a strip-club... i have no idea! haha. all i can say is it must be because it's own of the oldest in the city. (it's first incarnation goes back to the 1800's) and is also one of the most revolutionary, being fully unionized AND a worker's co-op.

all of this information begs many more questions, but i'll be sure to keep everyone updated as i go along!

Jessica Isabel said...

Hey Zek,

I would offer this piece of advice when you do go to the Lusty Lady. My best friend was a stripper for 5 years and so here are some of the things I've heard from her.

-Even if you don't want to buy a dance, the very fact that you're in a strip club watching women dance means you should tip. Tip the woman dancing on the stage if you're looking in her direction, for example. These women work really, really hard, and the excuse that you're just there to do research is not going to win you any brownie points. These women are here to make a living and just how you would buy lunch for someone you'd want to interview for an article, this is the same courtesy.

-Talk to the bartenders and the waittresses about your project. They'll be your in. Say that you're interesting in studying x, y, and z and you've chosen to a do project based on a, b, and c. Be polite, and try not to come off too academic because from experience, I know for a fact that we academics can come across pretty condescending if we're not careful.

Have a great time with this project, I'm really interested to see your thoughts on it when you finish :)

Zek J Evets said...

@jessica: thanks for the advice! i'll keep it mind when my group members & i go over there to work. hopefully i'll be able to be frugal while at the same time not being a dick =/

Gorbachev said...

This is a lot of stuff.

But archaeology --- it ain't.

Zek J Evets said...

@gorbachev: well, i guess that remains to be seen. depending on the work we do, it may be archaeological after all.

Mira said...

If the club is old, and if they do have some old furniture, etc. then it IS archaeology.

If not (if they analyse only modern furniture, etc.), then it's more along the lines of anthropology of material culture.

The fact they should interview workers looks like a typical anthropological research.

(That's how I see it).