Queering the Inuit Past: Archaeology as LGBTQ Allyship

Author(s): Meghan Walley

Year: 2017


The real-world utility of academic archaeology is frequently called into question. I address this perception by demonstrating that archaeology has unique potential in the sphere of LGBTQ activism. Because archaeology deals in constructing past narratives, it has the discursive power to naturalize or denaturalize existing social structures and identities. While archaeology has a long history of reinforcing normative social categories, archaeologists have recently begun to apply queer theory, which aims to dismantle normative categories, to their interpretations of the past. I argue that if we practice archaeology with the goal of revealing inconsistencies between past and present social norms, rather than projecting normative categories onto the past, archaeology gains the power to legitimize the identities of people living outside of the norms of their society or community. Through an investigation of nonbinary gender as a traditional aspect of Inuit shamanic identity, I have spoken with members of the Inuit LGBTQ community in order to understand how presenting a queer version of the past impacts living people. The results express the possibility and need to investigate queer pasts to gain a fuller picture of past identities and give LGBTQ communities a sense of history grounded in archaeological research.

Cite this Record

Queering the Inuit Past: Archaeology as LGBTQ Allyship. Meghan Walley. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431726)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.77; max lat: 83.52 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14790