Alexa Deanne Spiwak
My primary area of academic interest is all things industrial, encompassing the study of organised resource extraction from the post-medieval period up until the contemporary.
My Masters thesis at Memorial University of Newfoundland concentrated on the trans-Atlantic transfer of industrial practices within a historical context, namely slate quarrying in association with the early 17th-century colony of Avalon. My research not only demonstrated a strong cultural tie between Newfoundland and the slate-bearing hills of North Wales, but also succeeded in demonstrating the agency of landscapes and the complexities of what many considered a mundane and utilitarian material.
Themes of non-human agency, memory and materiality have been carried into my doctoral project, tentatively titled Splitting Stones: Exploring the Slate Heritage Landscapes of the Anthropocene, under the supervision of Þóra Pétursdóttir. Inspired, in part, by my own crisis of professional identity as both a conservator and an archaeologist, this project attempts to wrestle with the disparities I saw within heritage discourse, in particular the divide between "cultural heritage" and "natural heritage", as well as the attribution of "heritage value". Do traditional notions of heritage leave room at the table for the ever-accumulating remnants of our recent industrial past? How does our understanding of heritage affect the way we care for and interact with post-industrial slate quarrying landscapes? This project endeavours to better understand the complex entanglements of human and non-human actors within these landscapes and how they relate to the (re)creation of heritage through the concept pairs of nature/culture, valued/unvalued and memory/oblivion.
Master of Arts in Archaeology - Memorial University of Newfoundland
Graduate Certificate in Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management - Fleming College
Hons. Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology and Cognitive Science - University of Toronto