- Dr John Harries
- Senior Teaching Fellow
- 5.25 Chrystal Macmillan Building Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
- +44 (0)131 651 3065
- Research Interests
- Social memory, time and temporality, indigeneity and identity (particularly in postcolonial settler societies), matter and materiality, the senses and the environment, Canada, Newfoundland, the Beothuk
I received by PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh in 2002. Since then I have held teaching posts the Critchton Campus of the University of Glasgow in Dumfries, the Centre of Canadian Studies and the School of Health and Social Science at the University of Edinburgh and, since September 2013, as a teaching fellow in Social Anthropology at the School of Social and Political Science. Of late my research and teaching has focused on issues of memory, materiality and identity, with particular reference to the politics of belonging in Newfoundland, Canada. I have also been involved in research projects concerning the integration of health and social care in the UK.
Remembering the Beothuk
Over the last few years I have been conducting research concerning the ways in which the people of Newfoundland, Canada, remember the Beothuk, a native people of that island who became extinct (or were exterminated) in the early 19th century. Through this research I have been addressing the question of how we may theorise the presence of the past. This is particularly a concern with the material traces of past lives, be they human bones or scratches on stones, and how these traces are enfolded into the work of individual and collective memory. This work is presently being prepared as a monograph entitled Beothuk Ghosts: Memory, Materiality and the Politics of Postcolonial Regret in Newfoundland.
The affective presence and emotive materiality of human remains
This concern with the material traces of the past and politics of heritage and commemoration has lead to an interest in human bones and specifically the techniques by which we constitute the "voice" of bones and how this "voice" speaks, or is made to speak, within contemporary politics of identity and recognition, particularly in the context of histories of violence and dispossession. This interest has led me to become a founding member of the bones collective - a network of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and artists who are concerned with the "emotive materiality" and "affective presence" of human remains. For more information see: The Bones Collective. Our most recent project, undertaken in collaboation with Archaeology and the College of Art at the University of Edinburgh, is entitled "The Bones Beneath the Face." This is an interactive installation featuring the skull of nameless person, which invites participants to reflect on the senseous engagements with human bone and, in so doing, explore what bones can "say" but also what they "can't say". Working with Surgeon's Hall Museum, photographs from twe have subsequently developed the material from this installation into a public exhibit. See: Word of Mouth.
TRACES - Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts
Funded by a EU Horizon 2020 grant, TRACES is a colloborative project involving multidisciplinary teams artists and academics across Europe. It focuses on the challenges and opportunities inherent in transmitting contentious cultural heritages in Europe, with a particular emphasis on the role of the arts and arts-based interventions in promoting collective self-reflection and a critical dialogue concerning the difficult pasts which haunt contemporary articulations of identity. My particular involvement is as part of the "Dead Images" project, one of five colloborative co-productions within TRACES. Working with a team of researchers ard artists - Linda Fibiger, Joan Smith , Tal Adler, Anna Szöke and Maria Teschler-Nicola - this project engages with the complex and contentious legacy of collections of human skulls kept by museums, universities and other public institutions in Europe.
The "Third Space"
The thirds space project is a collaboration between academics with the Schools of Social and Political Science, Health in Social Science and Education, Edinburgh Global and EUSA Global. It is "a new series of activities which wrap around students’ international experiences giving them the tools to explore, reflect, engage, and share culture during the different stages of their time away". In particular, I have been involved in the design of a "tool box" which, drawing inspiration from the techniques of ethnographic research, provides a series of provocations, suggestions and invitations designed to encourage students to seek out and enjoy new intercultural experiences. For more information see: The Third Space.
Beothuk ghosts: memory, materiality and the poetics of postcolonial guilt in Newfoundland. Montreal and Kingston:McGill-Queen's University Press. Contract issued, book in preparation.
Peer-reviewed chapters and articles
2017, 'A clearing with a view to the lake, the bones of a caribou and the sound of snow falling on dead leaves: sensing the presence of the past in the wilds of Newfoundland'. In F Polack (ed.), Traces of Ochre: Changing Perspectives on the Beothuk. University of Toronto: University of Toronto Press (in press)
2017, 'Human remains: rights and responsibilities', in H. Callan (ed.) International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. New York: Wiley Blackwell. (forthcoming)
2016, 'A stone that feels right in the hand: tactile memory, the abduction of agency and presence of the past' Journal of Material Culture.
2016, 'Disarticulated bones' Journal of Techniques and Culture, special issue Fixing the World: Excess, Leftover and Innovation, number 65-66.
2016, 'A "Beothuck Indian" Skeleton (not) in a Glass Case: Rumours of Bones and the Remembrance of an Exterminated People in Newfoundland', in J.-M. Dreyfuss & E. Anstett (eds.) Human Remains in Society. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
2015, 'A dog story from Newfoundland (revisited)' Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology, vol 5, no. 2, special Issue Doing Things with Stories, pp 37-51.
2014, 'Communicating your research and writing up', in N Konopinski (ed.), Doing anthropological research: a practical guide. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 118-143.
with A. Cook, 2014, 'Zipping up or zipping down: reflections on integration at the front line' Journal of Integrated Care, vol 23, no. 3.
with J. Fontein, 2013, 'The vitality and efficacy of human substances' Critical African Studies, vol 5, no. 3, pp. 115-126.
with P. Filippucci, J. Fontein & C. Krmpotich, 2012, 'Encountering the past: Unearthing remnants of humans in archaeology and anthropology', in D Shankland (ed.), Archaeology and Anthropology: Past, Present and Future: ASA Monographs 48. Berg, London, pp. 197–217.
with G. Huby & S. Grant, 2011, 'Contributions of ethnography to the study of public services management' Public Management Review, vol 13, no. 2, pp. 209-225.
2010, 'Of bleeding skulls and the postcolonial uncanny: bones and the presence of Nonosabasut and Demasduit' Journal of Material Culture, vol 15, no. 4, pp. 403-421.
with C. Krmpotich & J. Fontein, 2010, 'The substance of bones: The emotive materiality and affective presence of human remains' Journal of Material Culture, vol 15, no. 4, pp. 371-384.
with G. Huby,P. Warner, E. Donaghy, R. Lee, L. Williams, P. Huxley, S. Evans, C. Barker, J. White & S. Philpin, 2010, Supporting the reconfiguration of social care roles in the UK. London: Department of Health.
Art Installations and Events
October 2015, Unearthings (a hastely abandoned explorer's tent, with an anonymous skull as speciman), an installation curated as part of Remains, Waste, Metonymy "a critical intervention into Arts/Scholarship", hosted by the BIEA, Nairobi, Kenya.
June 2014, with J. Smith, J. Fontein, C. Douglas, J. Nowak, L. Fibiger, E. Kranioti, D. Zamora and J. Cheeseman. The Bones Beneath The Face, an interactive installation curated as a fringe event for meeting of the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA), Edinburgh.
If you are interested in being supervised by John Harries, please see the links below for more information: