Sketchbook archaeology: Bodies multiple and the archives they create

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological bodies and their afflictions have multiplied in recent years, along with the specialists who study them. The result is a cascade of data, much of it difficult to reconcile. I argue that variable enactments of disease, rather than reflecting an epistemological disconnect or difference in scale, engender ontological gaps. To pursue these malleable matters, I trace the proliferation of “cancer” from the Spring Street Presbyterian Church burial vaults (1820–1850) in Manhattan. To explore the struggles involved in making many things one, I consider emergent multiplicities of this “disease” within specialists’ laboratories, archival records, and the writing process. Rather than force these different cancers to cohere, or make one “win” based on disciplinary domain (science/humanities) or hierarchy of substance (bone/paper), I rely on Stengers’s (2018) ecology of partial connects. The outcome is not a rubric of knowledge gained, but a sketchbook of lessons learned with bodies multiple along the way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-232
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Bioarchaeology
  • cancer
  • data
  • multiple ontologies
  • slow science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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