Friends and Enemies: Heritage Ethnography in the Shadow of the State

Author(s): Annalisa Bolin

Year: 2018


Engaged archaeology and public anthropology depend on the goodwill, or at least tolerance, of numerous publics. This is frequently understood to mean local communities and nearby residents, but projects can live or die according to the will of groups less often discussed as part of the target public: authority structures such as permitting agencies or even national governments. How do such organizations figure into the "public" of public scholarship? What happens when research is pressured to produce the narratives that authority structures desire? Is it possible to practice engaged and ethical research in these contexts, and if so, what practical accommodations can we reach—or must we abandon the project altogether?


This paper investigates these questions in the context of post-genocide Rwanda, where social science research has become increasingly constrained. Some researchers have found themselves on semi-official "enemies lists", while others encounter pressure to be "friends of Rwanda" who can be counted on to produce complimentary accounts of the country. Drawing on my experiences as a heritage ethnographer in Rwanda, I examine the ethical and practical difficulties of conducting research under the eye of a powerful and sensitive government, and negotiating responsibilities both to communities and to scholarship itself. 

Cite this Record

Friends and Enemies: Heritage Ethnography in the Shadow of the State. Annalisa Bolin. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444758)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 24.082; min lat: -26.746 ; max long: 56.777; max lat: 17.309 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20496