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.