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Archaeologies

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 132–167 | Cite as

Heritage Management and Aboriginal Australians: Relations in a Global, Neoliberal Economy—A Contemporary Case Study from Victoria

  • Nicolas Zorzin
Research

Abstract

Cultural Heritage Management in Victoria has bonded archaeologists and Aboriginal people to the logic of profitability. In this article, I argue that this approach to heritage neutralises and/or discourages any political or social interpretations relevant to aboriginal peoples, and undermines subsequent protest movements. I advocate that archaeology, as it is framed in Victoria, is participating in making the heritage ‘industry’ a profitable activity for Aboriginal communities, giving them an illusion of empowerment, ironically achieved through the destruction of their own non-renewable heritage. This process of commodification is consented to in exchange for financial compensation, presented as the key to emancipation. I intend here to demonstrate that this belief might in reality be detrimental to Aboriginal Australians.

Key words

Aboriginal Australians Archaeology Cultural heritage management Corporatisation 

Résumé

Dans l’état du Victoria, la gestion du patrimoine culturel a été organisée de manière à ce que les archéologues et les communautés aborigènes soient aujourd’hui liés à la logique du profit. Dans cet article, je défends l’idée que cette approche du patrimoine détourne les archéologues des dimensions sociale et politique de la profession - pourtant des plus pertinentes pour les populations aborigènes - et mine ainsi l’émergence de mouvements de contestations. Je suggère que l’archéologie du Victoria tend à réduire la gestion du patrimoine à une industrie technicisée, perçue comme potentiellement rentable pour et par les communautés aborigènes. Cette image de l’archéologie a donné l’illusion aux communautés aborigènes d’une possible réaffirmation de leur autorité et d’une réelle responsabilisation, ironiquement obtenues par la destruction de leur propre patrimoine. Ce processus de marchandisation de la relation au patrimoine a été consenti en échange d’une compensation financière, présentée comme la clef de l’émancipation. J’ai l’intention de démontrer ici que cette conception d’inspiration néolibérale est en réalité néfaste aux Aborigènes d’Australie.

Resumen

En el estado de Victoria, la gestión del patrimonio cultural ha sido diseñada para que los arqueólogos y las comunidades aborígenes estén sujetos a la lógica del beneficio. En este artículo, se argumenta que esta orientación económica desvía los arqueólogos de las dimensiones sociales y políticas de su trabajo; dimensiones que, sin embargo, son más relevante para las poblaciones indígenas. Así, esta lógica mina la posible aparición de movimientos de protesta. Sugiero que la arqueología de Victoria tiende a reducir la gestión del patrimonio a una industria, vista como rentable por y para las comunidades aborígenes, dándoles la ilusión de tener la autoridad y una responsabilidad real, obtenida irónicamente por la destrucción de su propio patrimonio. Este proceso de mercantilización en respecto a la relación del patrimonio se hizo a cambio de una compensación económica, presentada como la clave para la emancipación. Aquí intento demostrar que esta idea de inspiración neoliberal es, en realidad, perjudicial para los aborígenes australianos.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am particularly grateful to all the individuals who participated in this research and spoke with me freely about Victorian archaeology successes, issues and struggles. I also thank Dr Andrew Jamieson (University of Melbourne) most sincerely for his full support during my postdoctoral research in Victoria. I am also grateful to the Australian Endeavour Research Fellowship (2012) for its research funding and to the University of Melbourne for its support through the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies.

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Copyright information

© World Archaeological Congress 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British School at AthensAthensGreece
  2. 2.School of Historical and Philosophical Studies – Classics and ArchaeologyUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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