Tag Archives: Political Archaeology

Checks and Balances: The Legal Future for Archaeology and Archaeologists

If your Facebook feed as a fellow anthropologist is anything like mine, then you know the fear that has accompanied the election of the new president. My friends are expecting imminent deportations, registries, all of the worst possible scenarios. At a lower level of terror, my archaeologist friends are also fearing for their jobs and for our natural and archaeological resources. As a naturalized immigrant, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and the adoring aunt of two biracial toddlers, I am not immune to the nightmare scenarios, and I also fear for the future of archaeology. But I am also a lawyer by training, and my legal background colors my views. There are checks and balances in place, and they are not just formalities, and that is what I want to write about this week. I’m not a constitutional scholar, nor an expert on the laws surrounding archaeology, so this is necessarily a basic and general discussion. I’ll try to address the laws that surround archaeology but also the possibility of civil rights violations that are really keeping people awake at night right now. And in the hopes of including people who might have different political views, I’m going to put [Read More]

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]

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]

Martin’s Cove and the Future of Public Archaeology

Howdy! With this final post, I will relinquish my tenure as the guest editor of the Binghamton MAPA blog. It’s been a pleasure covering issues in public archaeology in the American West. I suspect you’ll enjoy the work of my successor, the very capable Trish Markert, a PhD student in historical archaeology. So now my task is to bundle up the several ideas I’ve explored this month, and to propose a few things that will be challenges for public archaeology in the future. As you may have noticed, I’ve got a lot to say on the issue of public archaeology and the public lands of the West. But I’ve got comprehensive exams to take in a few weeks, a dissertation prospectus to be writing, and grading to be done! So I’m forced to keep this as brief as possible, and leave several major issues unexplored.   However, for now, I want to turn to the issue of the public and private spheres, and how public archaeology is going to increasingly be called on to mediate the two, particularly in regards to sacred sites, cultural landscapes, and traditional cultural properties. Since large-scale, publicly-funded salvage archaeology began during the Depression, we’ve gotten pretty [Read More]