Archaeology and the State

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The relationship between archaeologists and the State is subject to significant debate. Depictions range from Trigger's colonialist, nationalist and imperialist to the utilitarian conceptions of State responsibility for the past as present in the day-to-day of cultural resource management, if one could even consider these as opposite ends of a spectrum at all. This session seeks to collate contemporary conceptions of archaeology's connection to and representation within wider State objectives and structures. Does archaeology persist as a tool for the formation and maintenance of nationalist and capitalist narratives or does it serve to resist, even overcome, State mechanisms of control? The potential answers to this question are diverse, nuanced and critically engage with the some of the fundamental elements of archaeological identity. Examples from different jurisdictions, from the past and the present, contextualize the ongoing exchanges between archaeologists and the State as reflective of wider social movements and philosophical horizons. Archaeology's very inclusion within and/or resistance to State structures emphasizes the broader political arenas to which the products of archaeology are applied. Ultimately this session seeks a heightened awareness of archaeology's position within the dynamics of governance to better grasp the broader implications of archaeological practice.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-7 of 7)

  • Documents (7)

  • Archaeological Heritage as State Nuisance: Object Lessons From Accidental Burial Discoveries (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Neal Ferris.

    State control of archaeology has tended to originate from the agendas of archaeologists - altruistic, capitalistic, and entirely self-serving. This has framed practice as aiding and abetting State processes and societal differentials that play out over land and resource consumption. Despite this, a chronic phenomenon of this process is the need to resolve unmarked burial discoveries. These occurrences are typically achieved within vague regulatory frameworks, and often lack direct State...

  • Archaeology and Heritage in the United States (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only William Graves. Sarah Herr.

    In this paper we consider how the State, through law and practice, affects United States archaeologists’ abilities to conduct innovative, humanistic research in the context of cultural resource management (CRM) and may become an impediment to inclusive heritage-management practices. CRM is, perhaps, best known for its accumulation of collections and data and its ability to answer middle-range-theory questions that remain broadly ecological in scope. Here, we consider how CRM can better...

  • In(di)visible Fulcra: Perception and Balance in Canadian Archaeological Governance (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joshua Dent.

    The history of provincial heritage legislation and policy in the Canadian context has been infrequently studied and rarely theorized. Contemporary critical heritage and applied archaeological research are beginning to reverse this trend and the past that is coming to light has significant implications to future archaeological governance. Drawing from research conducted into British Columbia and Ontario, this paper highlights two important facets of archaeological governance, perception and...

  • The Institution of Archaeology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marina La Salle.

    Archaeology is perhaps now, more than ever before, a viable career choice for university students. Although academic positions seem to be dwindling, opportunities in contract, commercial, or compliance archaeology are skyrocketing as the development ethic of North American capitalism continues to expand. Armed with a field school and a handful of undergraduate courses, these new graduates represent the dominant practice of archaeology today. The question is, what are they practising? Who has...

  • Japanese archaeology, the market economy: resistances through community archaeology? (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicolas Zorzin.

    In Japan, the relationship between archaeology and the presently dominant neoliberal political economy is now giving rise to ethical issues faced primarily by archaeologists. In this presentation, I illustrate the difficulties which may have arisen from these relations, and explore other avenues of reflection within the implementation of a ‘community archaeology’. The results of my investigation are based on interviews of a sample of Japanese archaeologists and community members involved in...

  • Lies, Damn Lies, and CRM—Archaeology as White Power and Neoliberal Statecraft (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard Hutchings.

    In 1989, anthropologist Bruce G. Trigger (1937-2006) successfully showed archaeology to be a conduit for social power. What he did not elaborate on was that archaeology largely represents a racialized form of power insofar as most archaeologists are white and those whose past they "study" are largely minority Indigenous peoples. Further, while Trigger considered archaeology a bourgeois pursuit, he did not adequately account for the near wholesale commercialization of archaeology in the form of...

  • Who Shot First?: Codified Categories Creating Imaginary Archaeological Pasts (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Beaudoin.

    Archaeologists in Canada are empowered by the Canadian state through licensing and/or permitting systems; as such, archaeological practices are intrinsically entangled with various levels of governance. While it would be convenient to argue for an archaeology either free entirely of state control, or entirely and purposefully guided to fulfill state mandates, the reality is more nuanced. Archaeology is often structured by interpretive conventions that act to replicate the dominant archaeological...