Tuesday, August 24, 2010

women's participation in Cypriot archaeology: a mirage of parity

Two significant studies of gender inequities in Cypriot archaeology found women's participation and publishing historically low; but they also showed decades of progress, and encouraging signs of (potential, future) gender parity. However, I fear some of those signs may be somewhat of a mirage.

There is also gender division within the profession, with men overly-responsible for grand theory, and women overly-burdened with essential data collection and processing.

I think at least some signs of women's increasing contribution to Cypriot archaeology are actually signs of men's continued control of theoretical and methodological work (and women's continued performance of archaeology's "domestic" labour).

Historically, women have been under-represented in archaeological work and writing.(1) When they entered the profession, they had to cope with the leftover effects of the sexism that had kept them out, the continuation of some direct sexism, and the quirks of archaeological work.

These problems caused a disproportionate number of women to work on artefacts and in museums, so neither their works nor their publications were very visible.(2) Many women's work was completely invisible - for example, if a museum credited itself as the author/editor of its catalogue.

Nevertheless, measuring with conference papers and journal articles, women finally appear to be approaching equal participation in Cypriot archaeology.(3) However, I think some of the publication data is unduly encouraging.

As its name implies, the Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus (RDAC) is the central journal for publishing Cypriot data and its interpretation, so it frequently publishes (predominantly female archaeologists') artefact studies (Bolger, 2003: 203-204).

Yet (predominantly male archaeologists') theoretical and methodological work is commonly published in other (peer-reviewed) journals; and I think that this is happening more frequently.

Gender numbers and proportions through time

Men and women published more and more from the 1940s to the 1960s.(4) And looking at relative percentages of male and female authors of (individually-written) articles in the RDAC, female archaeologists steadily advanced from writing 32% of articles in the 1970s, to 37% of them in the '80s, to 45% in the '90s.(5)

In simple numbers, women's (and men's) contributions to collaborative articles also increased from the 1970s to the 1990s; but in the '90s, the number of men increased even faster, so the proportion of women decreased.(6)

In fact, that appears to explain how female archaeologists' individual publications formed an increasing proportion of RDAC articles. Both male and female authors increased in number from the 1970s to the 1980s and decreased from the 1980s to the 1990s; but individual male authorship decreased far more.

Comparing male and female archaeologists' individual publishing across those decades, nearly 35% of men's articles were published in the '70s, and nearly 39% in the '80s, but less than 27% in the 1990s (a reduction of nearly a third). Yet over 27% of women's articles were published in the '70s, nearly 37% in the '80s, and still nearly 36% in the 1990s (a reduction of just more than one-thirtieth).(7)

A mirage of gender parity

Assuming the decades-long trend of increasing numbers of authors and works has continued (as suggested by all papers in Cypriot archaeology conference proceedings, as well as collaborative articles in the RDAC (8)), male archaeologists have continued to publish, but they have chosen to publish elsewhere.

The increased power and visibility of women in Cypriot archaeological publishing might equally be seen as the continued power and visibility of men. Women continue to do the essential but largely-unrewarded data collection and processing, and to publish it in the RDAC. Men continue to use women's work in order to write well-rewarded grand theory, but more and more tend do it in highly-visible international journals.

So, the initially encouraging visibility of female archaeologists in contemporary Cypriot archaeology seems to be somewhat of a mirage. It needs to be made real, both for the sake of equality within the profession, and for the sake of non-sexist interpretation and anti-sexist education.

We can only hope that female archaeological publishing has restarted growing since the last surveys of gender inequities; that men do their share of the 'dishwashing' (9); and that women have their rightful role in theorising and writing archaeologies.

  1. Webb and Frankel, 1995: 96.
  2. Webb and Frankel, 1995: 101.
  3. C.f. Webb and Frankel, 1995: 95-97 - figs. 2-4; Bolger, 2003: 206 - table 8.1; women still aren't visible enough in co-authored and collaborative work; and, since now 69% of Cypriot archaeologists are women (Alphas and Pilides, 2008: 29), so a similar proportion of publications should be female archaeologists'.
  4. Webb and Frankel, 1995: 94 - fig. 1.
  5. Bolger, 2003: 206 - table 8.1.
  6. C.f. Bolger, 2003: 211.
  7. There was a special double issue in 1988, so I halved that year's articles (and rounded up) to get the "normal" number.
  8. C.f. Bolger, 2003: 211 - fig. 8.6; Webb and Frankel, 1995: 97 - fig. 4.
  9. Dommasnes, Kleppe, Mandt and Næss, 1998: 119.

Alphas, E and Pilides, D. 2008: Discovering the archaeologists of Europe, 2006-2008: The case of Cyprus. Lefkosia: Republic of Cyprus Department of Antiquities. Available at: http://www.discovering-archaeologists.eu/national_reports/DISCO_national_CY_English_web.pdf

Bolger, D. 2003: Gender in ancient Cyprus: Narratives of social change on a Mediterranean island. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.

Dommasnes, L H, Kleppe, E J, Mandt, G and Næss, J-R. 1998: "Women archaeologists in retrospect: The Norwegian case". In Díaz-Andreu, M and Sørensen, M L S, (Eds.). Excavating women: A history of women in European archaeology, 105-124. London: Routledge.

Webb, J M and Frankel, D. 1995: "Gender inequity and archaeological practice: A Cypriot case study". Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, Volume 8, Number 2, 93-112.

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