CoPOWER: investigating power and social marginality in later prehistoric Europe

My name is Elisa Perego and I am a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the OREA Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. My main interests in research are Mediterranean and Italian archaeology, the archaeology of later prehistory, social marginality and archaeological method and theory. I am also interested in science policy and equality in research and academia. I have had a non-linear work path as an academic, and in my life I have also worked in different sectors such as child education and tech communication.


Vienna (photo Elisa Perego)

My new research project is called CoPOWER “Government of Life and Death: The Rise of Coercive Power in European Late Prehistory”. It is funded by the European Commission and will run for two years until July 2019.

CoPOWER investigates power and marginality at the dawn of urban society in Europe around 1200-500 BC. This period of huge socio-economic transformation saw the rise of new forms of authority, social control and social exclusion. While many projects have investigated this phase from the point of view of elite groups, there has been less research focusing primarily on marginal individuals. With CoPOWER, however, I am interested in looking at the life-histories of people that are often the forgotten protagonists of human history: low-status women and little children, people with chronic illness or disability, and the victims of extensive violence, neglect and abuse.

As my project started less than one month ago, some of my time every day is dedicated to administration, project management and setting up myself in Vienna and at my new workplace. When I get up in the morning, I always check my emails and have a look at Twitter. I may share some content on social media (see @elisaperego78) about my work or about research policy: I am especially interested in the situation of early career researchers (ECRs) in an age of reduced funding and opportunities.

When I go to my office, I usually have many different things to do: writing research papers and blog posts, keeping up with the literature in my field and organising research visits at a local museum or in another country (I will work with samples from Italy and Austria). Today, for example, I am working on a journal article that addresses the issues of marginality and “personhood” from a theoretical point of view. This morning I have also drafted several emails that I will send to various research institutions and colleagues: I am setting up a network of new collaborations for the bioarchaeological analysis that I plan to use to investigate marginality in past society.

While my new project has just started, I have already started to think (and feel a bit anxious!) about my next career stage. When competition for grants and research jobs is so high, you are very well aware that you need to plan from day one how to manage your project in order to get through.

There are some questions to ask: will I use my time and research money to “play safe” and get the coveted high-calibre publications that may give me my next job, or will I go for something that is potentially much more original but may fail?

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CoPOWER is a project based at the Institut für Orientalische und Europäische Archäologie (OREA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) in Vienna. It is funded by the European Commission as a MSCA-IF-2016 – Individual Fellowship. You can find more information about CoPOWER at http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/209010_fr.html