John Carman

Biography

After a professional career in the administration of large corporations, I studied for an MPhil and then a PhD in Cultural Heritage in the Department of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge. My PhD - completed in 1993 - examined English law in terms of what law does to archaeological material and how this effects our understanding of that material, and was published as Valuing Ancient Things in 1996. From 1993 to 1999 I was a Research Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and from 1998 to 2005 an Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge, involved in research and teaching. During this period, to get away from long periods spent in dusty law libraries and to get out into the open air, I began witrh Patricia Carman the Bloody Meadows Project on historic battlefields as landscapes, a project that continues. While at Cambridge I published my first contributions to Conflict Archaeology Material Harm (1997) and Ancient Warfare (with A. Harding, 1999) as well as more in the field of Heritage especially Archaeology and Heritage (2002) and Against Cultural Property (2005).

In 2005 I joined the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham as Senior Lecturer in Heritage Valuation, and in 2013 transferred to the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage. Birmingham saw the publication of the first major output of the battlefields project in Bloody Meadows (2006) and a wider consideration of Conflict Archaeology in Archaeologies of Conflict (2013), together with involvement in the commemoration of the 1708 Battle of Oudenaarde beginning a long-standing collaboration with the Ename Center in Belgium that has also seen the foundation of the international co-operative network of battlerfield archaeologists in Europe ESTOC. I have continued to publish in Archaeology and Heritage, including Heritage Studies (with M.L.S. Sørensen, 2009), Archaeological Practice in Great Britain (with J. Schofield and P. Belford, 2011), The Oxford Handbook of Public Archaeology (with R. Skeates and C. McDavid, 2012) and Archaeological Resource Management: an international perspective for Cambridge University Press (2015). My current project is a second co-authored volume out of the Bloody Meadows Project. 

Research interests

My overall interest is in the role in the present of material remains from the past. This involves a concern with the ideological aspects of what we call ‘heritage’ and the institutions – organisational, legal, structural – that we set up to manage it. I am interested in what kinds of object we allocate to the category ‘heritage’ and how we do it, and how aspects of heritage management relate to the theory and practice of archaeology as a research discipline into the past. I have a particular interest in how issues of ownership impinge upon and condition our attitudes towards and expectations of the material heritage. All of this derives from an interest in understanding the various types of value we give to our material heritage – what those values are, and from where they derive. The category of heritage is a universal one – everybody can claim to have a heritage – but the specifics of what constitutes that heritage and how it is treated vary from place to place, so I am also interested in comparing heritage practices internationally which has been the subject of two books: Archaeology and Heritage in 2002 and Archaeological Resource Management: an international perspective in 2015.

A particularly interesting category of heritage is that of ‘landscape’ and especially those landscapes which carry special meanings for us in the present. One such landscape type which has become the concern of archaeologists and heritage professionals is the ‘historic battlefield’. These are the subject of research by the Bloody Meadows Project – a joint enterprise with Patricia Carman – which studies such places as landscapes. Our aim is to understand the attitudes to place brought by warriors in the past to the places where they carried out their violent activities, and to compare those places so sought in one period with those sought in other periods; this leads us to apply a broadly ‘phenomenological’ approach to their investigation. A related concern – and one linked with the interest in heritage value – is with the way such places are remembered or memorialised. This work was the subject of a book published by Suttons in 2006, Bloody Meadows: investigating cultural landscapes of battle and a further volume arising from the project is in the course of production.

Willingness to take PhD students

Yes

PhD projects

Heritage and its management
Socio-politics of the past
Phenomenology of landscapes
Conflict Archaeology
Battlefield archaeology
Archaeological approaches to warfare and violence