Excavation, from the Latin excavare, refers to the act of digging, unveiling an object placed under several layers. We should probably pay more attention to this term. We should take it literally when we research new data for our projects. Or, simply, when we meet new peers and instinctively engage in small talk. This would prove extremely beneficial in both cases.
The idea would be to put less emphasis on broad surveys, to leave aside big data to focus on a small fraction of our realm of interest and dig, deep down, until nothing is left to find. Excavating is not merely a quest for the unknown. It is not going on a mission to discover items from a remote past in an archaeological site. It is, rather, the genuine effort of exploring what is close to us which we take for granted. We underestimate the positive feedback of sticking to one single event or object and analyse it in all its complexity. In some cases, at closer inspection, individuals show their true colours.
Experiences of social, academic or psychological excavation can lead to unforeseen and revealing results. The outcome might enrich us more than we would expect at first sight, just after a quick and superficial scan. We should take time to excavate. To look beyond our assumptions. The human potential thought leader and social entrepreneur Bryant McGill, in Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life wrote: ‘The struggle to excavate your true, authentic self from beneath the mountain of conditioning and ridiculous expectation is the epic struggle of your lifetime’. It will not be an easy and straightforward enterprise, but it can reshape our identities from within, more than any external agent could ever do.
Francesca Masiero is a second-year LAHP-funded PhD student in Renaissance Studies in the Italian Department at the School of European Languages, Culture and Society at UCL. Her PhD project explores literacy and learning in Latin and vernacular schools in the Veneto (1405-1509).