Coordinators: Arwa Badran, Shatha Abu-Khafajah, and Sarah Elliott
The Arab region shares a history of colonial rule, and an attempt since its independence to detach from its legacy. Debates related to current management of archaeology often draw on the profoundly political and colonial nature of the discipline, engaging with linkages to colonial interest in the antiquities of the East in the 19th century, the acquisition and movement of cultural material abroad, the study of objects within scholarly and elite circles ex publico, and the production of a chronology and narrative still adhered to in the post-colonial context. Indeed, despite the illusion of colonial ‘ending’ inferred by the term ‘Post-colonial’, when allied to archaeological practice, it is seen to represent the persistence of Western hegemony. The local is absent in both archaeologies.
Over the past two decades, however, a wave of change has gathered pace across the region, prompted by a growth in the study and management of heritage as a discipline as practitioners and theorists reconsider how archaeology is performed, what narratives are produced, and where the public is positioned in all of this. Particular attention is being given to questions such as: Do we re-write history from our point of view? Does the public want to be part of this process? Do we have a different approach to the past and its study? Can it be traced before it was introduced by colonialism? Was it ever detached, and which aspects do – or can – we revive? What is the value of revisiting these issues today? This discussion has relevance to post-colonial contexts everywhere, from the Americas, to Africa, and to Australia and New Zealand. A further scrutiny of such questions is needed to enrich the debate on decolonisation, to understand how it is perceived and engaged with in various parts of the world (as decolonising efforts reflect particular histories of colonisation), and what disentanglement and ‘moving on’ entail and mean. Indeed, is it possible to decolonize archaeology without a kind of ‘undisciplining’?
Moving forward, then, is a complex endeavour. Ruminating over the colonial period and its legacy is no longer helpful. Decolonisation, as a theory and a practice, initiates a different approach that shifts the focus away from ‘undoing’ the colonial effect into searching within, and engaging in reflexivity and innovation with an effectiveness powered by a ‘public political stance’. Decolonial archaeology draws on the liberating power of the past.
Uzma Rizvi: Unearthing the Many Layers of Coloniality: A Decolonizing Approach to Archaeological and Heritage Practice in Local Contexts
Hamdan Taha: Colonial and Postcolonial Archaeology in the Arab World
Shadreck Chirikure: Will African archaeology ever be Decolonised: From Undying Colonial and Racial Privilege to Delegitimization of Africans in the Post-colony
Cristobal Gnecco: Postarchaeology, Postheritage: Knitting the Fabric
Neha Gupta: A Decolonial Perspective on Archaeological Practices in the Indian Context
The foundation of archaeology has been grounded in racism since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This has resulted in the discipline’s link to the discourse of colonialism, social inequality, slavery, systemic and structural bias. In this regard, anthropological associations such as WAC play pivotal roles in addressing discrimination and social marginalization, thereby propelling pertinent research to effect policies against racism in society and reduce the subjectivity in academia. Thus, the discipline becomes relevant to expanding the frontiers of campaigns such as the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Research by Black archaeologists has undoubtedly influenced critical reflection on issues of social injustice, inequity, and colonization. As substantive actions keep gathering momentum, numerous questions have been raised on how to repudiate eugenic policy-making and scholarly imperialism from and through the field of archaeology. These policies are evident in dominant ideas, funding, curriculum, publications, and hegemony of theory building and hypothesis testing obtainable and applied in the field. How then can we employ archaeology as an effective means to support anti-racism efforts? While these matters continue to be hotly debated in various fora, transitioning debates into concrete actions is crucial.
As the discipline evolves, archaeologists must question the knowledge systems put in place, thereby ensuring that epistemic and pedagogical transitions influence societal issues. The European Enlightenment's arrogation of scientific neutrality only authorizes a nonetheless deeply subjective white voice through its sciences. The African diaspora's activist scholarship has responded to this with positioned, if empirical, defense of black lives and voice. The place of indigenous epistemologies, traditional ecological knowledge, and the need to amplify Black voices is quintessential to address prejudice in society. Archaeology is well placed and should be used as a powerful tool to direct against state violence and white supremacists ideologies.
Thirty years ago, after the collapse of the Iron Curtain (1945-1991), Europe began reunification and European archaeology followed the same trend. The Malta Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Europe was established in La Valletta in 1992 and two years later the European Association of Archaeologists was founded in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Our hopes for long-term unity and universal democracy in Europe is today being frayed by the global pandemic and growing political isolationism. We need to remember that in the past archaeology has been repeatedly appropriated to support oppressive and unethical regimes, and we ensure that archaeology is not misused in this way today.
In the first two decades of this century, we experienced an era in which reliable and well-balanced information was often replaced with propaganda-driven misinformation and hoaxes and the desire for truth and freedom seems to be bogged down in a flurry of individual interests. At a time when many democratic institutions in Western democracies are failing, academia has to take a firm stance on social and political issues and offer its scientific knowledge and resources to combat social injustices. In today’s globalised world, archaeology is confronted on a daily basis with changes in public opinion, with the development of society in diverse geopolitical contexts, and with communities who experience a wide range of human rights violations. This session examines the state of European archaeology today and its future.
In our reconstruction of past societies and efforts in the preservation of heritage, how can European archaeology more deeply address rights and social justice issues?
Kristian Kristiansen: Towards a new interdisciplinarity in archaeology? The third science revolution and its implications
Leila Papoli-Yazdi: To exercise our freedom: How archaeology can reinforce the academic freedom
Julia Katharina Koch: The past discovered by women. Gender and Feminist Archaeology in past and present Europe
Michael Shanks? How to decolonize the future. Reflections through 50 years of archaeological theory
Coordinators: Oluseyi O. Agbelusi, Nupur Tiwari, and Marian Bailey
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged and radically transformed the world, forcing everyone, including archaeologists to pause and reflect on how we research, preserve, and disseminate knowledge in these strange times. It continues to dominate both local and international news with major concerns surrounding issues such as public health and safety, disrupted daily-life and living, work-life balance, social inequalities, declining economic resources, among other stressors. Over the past one-year, many countries implemented various public safety measures to slow the spread of the virus, which created significant challenges for the research and education sectors. While people are adapting and responding to the shifting public health procedures and practices, many archaeological field research projects were halted.
In the light of this, the World Archaeological Congress Student Committee (WACSC) aims to bring together student members across the globe to share their experiences on how they have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic situation, from the point of view of their educational training, fieldwork, and working from home. This session features presentations from four WAC Regional Colleges that highlight the problems and challenges students are encountering and trying to overcome during the ongoing pandemic. We hope that this session will act as a forum for a lively discussion to spark off new ideas or ways of preparing and conducting archaeological fieldwork and finding substitutes for fieldwork in the times of COVID-19.
The WACSC also recognize the various ways in which the pandemic has imposed limitations on the work of the broader WAC community, including being unable to travel and conduct research, confronted with declining resources from our universities and funding agencies, teaching and mentoring students virtually and not in person. After the keynote speech and the twenty minutes presentation from each panellist, there will be a more open dialogue where the audience can add to the relevant discussions about reimagining and re-shaping the practices of archaeology in the times of COVID-19. The audience, in engagement with the keynote speaker and panellists, will address one or more of the following questions:
How is this ongoing global pandemic affecting how you approach, study, conceptualize and think about the past, present, and the future?
How can our work on past pandemics inform the ways the current pandemic is being managed globally?
What insights can archaeology provide for a post-pandemic world from your areas of study, periods, and locality?
The WACSC invites students and faculty interested to join in, listen, and ask questions that will instigate further discussions and reflections. The student committee is dedicated to encouraging student membership and representation within WAC, organizing student-oriented activities, and promoting student participation in academic events organized by WAC.
María Florencia Becerra: Researching as a student: before, during and post covid-19. Some thoughts and experiences
Bolaji Owoseni: Navigating the Impacts of Covid-19 and Travel Restrictions: My Doctoral Archaeological Fieldwork Research Experience in Ilorin, Kwara State Northcentral, Nigeria
Wenjing Yu: 'It's ok to be not ok- life under lockdown'
Anubhav Preet Kaur: Fieldwork in a Pandemic: A Paradox
Molly Quinn: Luminescence in the time of COVID
María Rojas, María Garita, María Rojas, and Diego Jaramillo: Cachí's Archeological Heritage: A Virtual Project of Community Archeology in the Context of COVID 19
Zac Roberts: An archaeologist in Western New South Wales: Doing Indigenist archaeologies
Organized by Amber Aranui (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tamakopiri, Ngāti Tūwharetoa)
Over the last 30 years themes of decolonisation, repatriation, indigenous rights and human rights have been at the forefront of archaeological and museological practice around the world. In the Pacific a small but growing number of indigenous archaeologists are making important moves to ensure that the practice of archaeology is more holistic and incorporates cultural beliefs and knowledge into the practical application of archaeology. The repatriation of ancestral human remains from archaeological contexts including those held in museums and universities around the world is also the focus of many indigenous communities. The narrative around their removal is increasingly being led by the descendants of those ancestors, and truth telling about the past is being told from the perspective of the stolen and taken, give voice to those ancestors who did not give their consent to be removed from their places of rest.
This session focuses in taking back the narrative and show cases examples from around the world where indigenous peoples are now in those positions of power, leading projects, exploring their past, bring home their ancestors, and ensuring their voice is telling their history.
Kelley Uyeoka – Huliauapa’a: I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope - The future lies in the past. Utilizing ʻike kūpuna (ancestral knowledge) to transform archaeological power and practice in Hawai’i
For decades Native Hawaiians have fought to protect the integrity of our moʻolelo (stories and histories), iwi kūpuna (ancestral remains), wahi kūpuna (ancestral places), and koehana (artifacts and sacred items) in the face of colonization, over tourism, military expansion and rampant land development in our island home. The early colonial practices of salvage archaeology and now the more recent profit and development-driven nature of contract archaeology has also played a role in disempowering our people from our lands, heritage, and cultural practices. Archaeology has historically held the decision-making authority over Hawaiʻi’s sacred sites, however through our indigenous led non-profit organization, social enterprise, and community of practice there has been a concerted effort to build a system that empowers community-led stewardship by re-conceptualizing Archaeology as Wahi Kūpuna Stewardship. This paradigm promotes culturally-grounded and meaningful preservation practices, and increases the opportunities and abilities of Native Hawaiians to re-vitalize relationships with ancestral sites through direct management of policy, resources, and practices. The Wahi Kūpuna Stewardship approach acknowledges that the cultural and environmental health of a place and its people are interconnected, valued, and worthy of protection.
Leanne Mitchell (Paakantyi) and Robert Kelly (Ngati Maru): Returning ancestors to Paakantyi kiira kiira
Dionne Fonoti: UTU:Building the Sāmoan National Cultural Heritage Database
Lisa Biiri: Investigating metabolic disease in Kiribati communities in New Zealand
Zac McIvor (Tainui): Pā tawhito in Waikato at the interface of Mātauranga Māori and Archaeology