Friday, 10 April 2015

Collaborate, Condemn, or Ignore?

Suzie Thomas, 'Collaborate, Condemn, or Ignore? Responding to Non-Archaeological Approaches to Archaeological Heritage' European Journal of Archaeology Volume 18, Issue 2 (May, 2015), pp. 312-335. It's a tough question, and - oddly enough, one on which current codes of practice/ethics do not really give much of an answer.

What do archaeologists do when approached by groups or individuals with unorthodox, or even simply inappropriate, approaches to, and ideas about the past? What should they do? While much guidance and literature points to education and engagement, in some of the more sensitive or difficult cases it is often more appealing, and simpler, to ignore the issue, in the hopes that it will simply go away. Similarly, on occasions when archaeologists step forward to criticize alternative approaches to archaeological heritage, this does not always meet with positive or desired results. In this paper, in light of recent personal experience with a controversial piece of television programming, I discuss different approaches to responding to challenges to the expertise (and authority) of archaeologists by problematic encounters with concepts of the past. I suggest that while there are arguments in support of (and against) all three of the approaches that I identify (collaboration, condemnation, or ignoring), none provide an absolute solution. In order to discuss these approaches, I draw upon key cases from the literature, as well as personal reflection.

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