Lies, Damn Lies, and CRM—Archaeology as White Power and Neoliberal Statecraft

Author(s): Richard Hutchings

Year: 2015


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 cultural resource management (CRM) (2006:544-5). As such, Trigger never developed a complete theory of archaeology as statecraft, let alone one of neoliberal statecraft. In this paper, I reimagine Northern American (USA/Canada) archaeology as a tool of the racialized neoliberal state. A technology of government, archaeology permits the clearance or erasure of Indigenous heritage from the landscape in advance of capitalist development. Insofar as archaeologists are "making money out of misery," the practice constitutes disaster capitalism. As a state tool (or "craft"), archaeology is on the wrong side of history. Archaeology is ultimately about state governance, not apolitical "scientific exploration"—about environmental racism, not ethical "conservation." The way forward is complicated, but it must include public shaming, for only then will archaeologists act.

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Cite this Record

Lies, Damn Lies, and CRM—Archaeology as White Power and Neoliberal Statecraft. Richard Hutchings. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396052)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;