Theorizing Collapse and Transformations: Cultural responses to crisis and shock

PhD Course, Athens and Santorini, August 20-24, 2018.

Dialogues with the Past. The Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology.

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Nothing lasts forever. While many traditional models of culture change work within fundamentally gradualist mind-sets, it is becoming clear that crises and shocks happen, that past climates and environments have changes dramatically and rapidly at times, and that these events and processes can leave a material signature. Prompted by recent climatic change and associated increases in natural hazard impacts, querying the archaeological record for moments of crisis has moved centre stage. Importantly, crises often metastasize outwards from their epicentre, through migration and their impacts on economic and political-ecological networks. The aim of this PhD seminar is to provide research fellows with the opportunity to present aspects of their research related to some form of crisis, to explore human responses to crises, and to discuss how cultural factors influence the understanding of a given crisis, from prehistoric deep time to the contemporary, and, critically, how we can capture these archaeologically. Part of the seminar will take place on Santorini, a volcano whose eruption some 3,600 years ago led to the collapse of the Minoan civilisation and major geopolitical changes in the Mediterranean and beyond. Volcanic eruptions will hence serve an exemplary and analytical hinge for this seminar, but we will discuss all manner of crises. The seminar therefore welcomes presentations by PhD students exploring crises, especially but not exclusively in relation to environmental factors, but also through more theoretical approaches, such as phenomenological perspectives on crises or via theories of affect and emotion. We encourage participation of scholars from all periods, concluding contemporary archaeology.

The seminar seeks to address crises from a variety of angles: How can socio-cultural continuity and/or change be understood in relation to, say, large-scale, rapid changes in the environment or the economy? What role do perceptions of risk, fear and anxiety, for instance, play in cultural responses to a real or perceived crisis? How can central terms such as vulnerability and resilience be handled and analysed archaeologically/historically? And how are we to appreciate – conceptually and empirically – the varied and varying temporalities of collapse, given that some are the result of processes unfolding over decades or centuries, while others are immediately emergent? And, finally, as those working with ongoing crises and disaster increasingly realise the importance of cultural studies of these, can archaeology contribute to reducing vulnerability and building resilience in at-risk communities in the present? 


Course work

The course will consist of both seminars and lectures. Before the course starts, each PhD student will prepare a paper for pre-circulation, addressing her or his research project in relation to the course theme. In the course seminars, each paper will be allotted ca. 45 minutes, beginning with the student presenting a 15-minute summary of its contents. This is followed with a 10 min commentary from one of the other PhD students (selected in advance), after which she or he will chair an open discussion on the paper for approximately 20 minutes.




Shannon Lee Dawdy,    Jan Driessen,      Neil Price,       Felix Riede


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Professor Shannon Lee Dawdy (University of Chicago)

Professor Jan Driessen (Université Catholique de Louvain)

Professor Neil Price (University of Uppsala)

Associate Professor Felix Riede (Aarhus University)


The participating lecturers will each give a lecture during the course, as well as participating as prime movers in the discussion of PhD presentations. The seminar days will be structured with adequate time for spin-off debates and networking opportunities in mind.



1 month or 7 ECTS


Location, Travel and Costs

The Graduate School will finance and arrange travel and accommodation, as well as supply a daily allowance during the seminar for all participating PhD students who are part of the Dialogues With the Past network. Two PhD students will share a room.



The Graduate school invites all registered PhD students to apply for participation. Please follow this link to apply for the course (in English only). From these applications, c. 15 PhD students will be admitted to the course.

For more information please contact:


Important dates

Application for participation: until May 4, 2018. Confirmation on your participation will be sent out shortly after this date together with a reading list.

Submission of working papers (10 pages, Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5): June 29, 2018.

Appointment of discussants: August 3, 2018.

Tags: ph.d.-kurs, cultural responses, crisis, culture change, climatic change, volcano, human responses to crisis, economic change
Published Sep. 25, 2017 1:01 PM - Last modified Feb. 27, 2020 12:20 PM