Flash Presentation Session - Invited Status Awarded
Invited by: Archaeology Division
Of interest to: Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: Resistance
This session explores the changing nature of archaeology, particularly as an ever-growing, inclusive, and equitable space. The AAA meeting theme is a call to action: to examine how people respond to change and the role that anthropologists play in fomenting this change. Since Trump’s election, many scholars have been energized, either renewing their own activism or delving in for the first time. Archaeologists, in particular, are coming forward more than ever to engage the public around issues from cultural heritage to climate change. However, in these well-meaning movements to engage, there has been little discussion in how we decolonize ourselves.
The colonial past of archaeology and anthropology is not a new discussion. Since the first feminist critiques of the discipline in the 1980s, our discipline has dramatically changed. More and more women have entered and succeeded in the field. NAGPRA catalyzed a sea change in Native American archaeology and kick-started conversations about archaeology’s relationships with colonialism and racism worldwide. Organizations like the Society of Black Archaeologists and the Queer Archaeology Interest Group of the Society for American Archaeology have carved out spaces for Black and queer communities in the discipline. Yet just as things change, much stays the same. How do we, as a discipline, challenge cis-normative, heterosexist, misogynist, ableist, classist, and white supremacist ideologies? How do we recognize these issues in their overt and covert forms? And what do we do about them? If we are going to become better scholar-activists, we must first make sure that our professional organizations and spaces are safe and open to all people. This necessitates honest and often-uncomfortable conversations about the ways that each of us intentionally and unintentionally reinforces and supports white supremacy and heteropatriarchy.
The session will address how different systems of oppression affect archaeology, and how they intersect with each other in our field. Presentations will include research on diversity issues in the field, personal reflections on presenters’ experiences of oppression and privilege, and reports on best practices from projects and initiatives that are working to change archaeology for the better.
After the presentations, there will be time for discussion among the presenters and with attendees about how to improve archaeology. There will be time for questions and general discussion, moderated by session chair Laura Heath-Stout. At the end of the time slot, we will turn our attention to what we can do in our departments, workplaces, field projects, and professional organizations to make archaeology better for marginalized people. In order to allow people who cannot attend the AAAs to follow the conversation, there will be a designated live-tweeter and a designated note-taker for the presentations and discussion. Notes will be circulated to attendees and beyond as a resource for archaeologists doing the work of change.