Author Archives: trishmarkert

Can Archaeology Make the World Safe for Difference? (or Confronting Race in Trump’s America)

A Serious Project: Confronting Race in Trump’s America “This is a serious project,” Toni Morrison wrote in the days after Donald Trump’s election, in an essay entitled Mourning for Whiteness. “So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.” Toni Morrison’s words strike deeply into discussions of race over the past few weeks. To many, these are threatening words; they shake comfortable realities, are difficult to grasp and easy to dismiss. To others, they speak a deep truth that has been rubbed raw by the upsurge in bigotry and violence since the election. This post discusses racial justice and archaeology, but it also discusses action. In the wake of just two weeks of uncertainty, violence, and fear, there is so much work to be done. We have been inundated with liberal think-pieces about how and why we are faced with a Trump presidency. The Democratic platform failed to appeal to voters of color. It abandoned the white working-class in the small [Read More]

Archaeology in Trump’s America: Borders, Immigration, and Revolutionary Remembering

  Four days ago, I started this post with a framework already in mind. In that framework, we had our first female president. In that framework, absurd and hateful ideas such as a wall stretching across our southern border or laws banning Muslims from entering our country became rhetorical lessons for future generations of voters, lessons about how blatant xenophobia and racism had carried a candidate and how that candidate had lost. I expected to write this post and say that though the looming danger of those promises had passed, the hate and fear had not, and that we had quite a lot to work on as archaeologists confronting the words, ideas, and practices that perpetuate that hateful rhetoric. And then, Donald Trump won the election. Where before I felt that our job was dialogic and weighty, I now feel that it is critical. It is potentially revolutionary. The world has changed overnight, and the role of archaeology along with it. We must be ready to meet the challenges. They are new, uncertain, and frightening, but now is the time for our discipline to show its political teeth. We saved the topics of immigration and displacement until election week because [Read More]

Part II: Eroding – How the Archaeology of Climate Change Denial is Threatened by Climate Change

For Part II of the mini-series on climate change, we welcome guest blogger Kevin Gibbons, a fourth-year PhD student in the Zooarchaeology Laboratory at the University of Maryland. In Part 1 of this series, we surveyed some of the roles that archaeologists are playing in grappling with climate change. Archaeologists are engaging in climate change research to better understand how societies have coped with shifting environmental conditions in the past. We’re also confronting the significant loss of cultural heritage due to increased erosion, thawing, flooding, pollution, development, and other such threats in the present day. Political Challenges to Accepting a Species’ Worth of Responsibility It is no secret that the issue of climate change is contentious within American political discourse. The very existence of global warming is debated by the Republican Party and its elected officials. The Republican presidential nominee has asserted that it’s a Chinese hoax to somehow hamper the American manufacturing sector. While this denial appears to be an insidious combination of political expediency, conflicting economic interests, and a result of years of denigrating intellectualism, rationalism, and the scientific process, it’s also served to block any meaningful dialogue within Congress about how to address our collectively harmful impacts on [Read More]

Part 1: Archaeology and Climate Change – Past, Present, and Looking to the Future

Public Archaeology and Climate Change: Intersections and Trajectories Climate change is not an issue that has been central to the election this year. We rarely hear the two major candidates discussing the issue, it was given minimal time in the debates, and there has been little media coverage of the candidates’ views. However, with global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent consistently breaking records, and CO2 concentrations surpassing the 400ppm threshold, climate is an issue that should be on everyone’s minds this election season and beyond. This is especially true given that the next President will be responsible for keeping the US in line with the recent Paris Agreement – the most comprehensive and stringent climate agreement ever to be entered by the US. Archaeologists can – and indeed, are – playing a significant role in improving the science contributing to our understanding of climate change and raising awareness about its trajectory, historically and as we move into coming decades. Two key roles stand out: first, archaeologists can help shed light on the past effects of climate change upon human societies, and second, we can raise awareness about the ways that climate change is affecting us in the present: our sense [Read More]

“Nasty Women” and Man the Hunter: Archaeology and Gender Politics in 2016

Gender Politics in the 2016 Election: Exploring Archaeological Interventions Let’s talk about gender. We certainly aren’t the only ones; the country is abuzz with discussions surrounding gender and politics. For the first time in history, a man and a woman are competing for the highest office in the United States of America. In no other presidential election have gender politics been so visible, or so divisive. To start, I’ll touch on two primary examples (of many, to be sure) of the ways gender has come into play in the current election.   Example 1: Donald Trump’s Version of Masculinity A few weeks ago, the world heard a presidential nominee speak casually, proudly, smugly about sexually assaulting women. We saw the outrage – many voices from both parties condemned his words, and many more pointed it out as a demonstration of the type of toxic masculinity that persists like a wound beneath gender relations in our country. We also saw many men and women move to defend these words; they were justified as “locker room talk” and “men being men,” or dismissed as the status quo for men in power. Often, these justifications ignored the difference between talk of sex and talk [Read More]

An Archaeologist’s Guide to Election Season: A Preface

It’s Election Season – but what does Archaeology have to do with it? November 8 is a mere three weeks away.  Where do we start, so close to the end of what has been perhaps the most divisive and vitriolic election in the history of our country? Over the next month, I propose to assemble a series of posts exploring the relationships between archaeology and the national and global issues facing the country as we elect our 45th President.  These connections are rich, challenging, productive, and continually developing, though perhaps not immediately apparent to a general public that sees archaeology as a discipline dealing exclusively in a distant, resolved past.  As we witness wars, our own and others, through images that many of us can barely comprehend from the safety of our homes; as climate change, mindless of the debates around its existence in political circles, takes its increasing toll, already displacing whole communities and leaving the Great Barrier Reef dying in its wake; as Black bodies are met with fear and violence and exposed to national input on the validity of their lives and the justification of their deaths; as sacred lands and access to clean water are denied to Native Americans in the name of profit; as women [Read More]