Interview with Adam Green: Conferences, complexity, and climate change

What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think of Cambridge and why?

The first word I think of is ‘dialogue.’ Cambridge is a waypoint for scholars from all over the world, attracting a great number of highly talented individuals. This is especially the case in archaeology, where a massive post-doctoral community with an enormous range of backgrounds, interests, and expertise has come together. Life in Cambridge is filled with dialogues, each of which has the potential to bring about new ideas and projects.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your research interests?
I am interested in comparing long-term trajectories of social change. South Asia has been home to many different complex societies. My primary focus is the Indus Civilisation (c.2600-1900 BC), the birthplace of South Asia’s earliest cities. The Indus offers an archaeological record that challenges long-held assumptions about social complexity. I use digital and computational methods to understand its early technologies and landscapes, addressing questions about urbanisation, de-urbanisation, and other aspects of political and economic organisation.

stamp_seal_CISI M-12_in_ASI_CAC
What was your path to your postdoc at Cambridge? 

I completed my BA at Georgia State University and earned my PhD in Anthropological Archaeology at New York University. In 2016, I joined Dr Cameron Petrie’s TwoRains project at Cambridge, a European Research Council funded, multi-disciplinary initiative that investigates climate change during the Indus Civilization in northwest India. I built on field experience that I gained while working on my PhD in India, which had a different (but complementary) focus – the production and use of stamp seals, one of the Indus Civilisation’s hallmark urban technologies. I have conducted extensive field surveys for TwoRains, and became engaged in broader debates about climate change, sustainability and collapse. I have recently joined the Global Challenges Research Fund’s TIGR2ESS project, which stands for Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies. For TIGR2ESS, I am developing archaeological datasets that will, in collaboration with researchers across disciplines, help make India’s agriculture more sustainable.


You’re organizing a conference next term. What is the conference topic, and what was the process of applying for funding and organizing it?

Next term, my colleagues and I have organised a forum entitled “How Jared Diamond Stole the Grand Narrative: Reclaiming Social Complexity in Global Perspective.” This forum builds on an informal complex societies reading group that came together back in 2016. We noticed that in recent years, grand narratives have made a comeback. From David Graeber’s Debt: the First 5,000 Years to Walter Schiedel’s The Great Leveller, accounts of long-term and large-scale social change are flying off bookstores’ shelves. Though many of these recent books touch on classic archaeological themes, such as inequality and the emergence and collapse of early states, none have been written by archaeologists!

We will bring together archaeologists with the goal of creating opportunities to reassert the role of archaeology as deep history’s narrator, and advance new, archaeological-driven ways of discussing the emergence and transformation of complex societies. The forum has been generously funded by a grant from the DM McDonald Grants and Awards Fund. The institute holds a regular competition for conference proposals, which aim to make substantial impacts on long-running debates in archaeology.

3Dmodel from Green2018     
What do you do in your spare time?

My family and I love to travel and see the world, and we have spent many a half-term exploring the UK and neighboring countries. I am also a runner and a cyclist, allowing me to explore the local landscape and experience Cambridge and its environs in a different way. You can also catch me playing board games or reading science fiction. The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin is fantastic and I highly recommend it.


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