Crossing a Threshold: Collaborative Archaeology in Global Dialogue

Abstract

If collaborative archaeology is crossing a threshold, as several contributors to this special issue attest, nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the kinds of critical scrutiny it is attracting from those who are sceptical about its aims, its ethical/political integrity and its practical efficacy. There is a striking difference between the overtly hostile critiques that early advocates of collaborative practice faced and the kinds of challenges they now address. Rather than anxiety that community-based collaborations pose an existential threat to archaeology as a discipline, current critics object that they have failed to make any significant break with a conservative status quo and the extractive modes of inquiry it perpetuates. I trace the trajectory of critical responses to collaborative archaeology since the early 1990s and use this as a frame for thinking with contributors about the nature of the threshold marked by this special issue.

Résumé

Si l’archéologie collaborative aborde une nouvelle phase ainsi qu’en attestent plusieurs contributeurs à cette édition spéciale, ceci n’est nulle part ailleurs plus clairement évident que dans les types d’examen critique qu’elle suscite de la part de ceux affichant leur scepticisme quant à ses objectifs, son intégrité éthique/politique ainsi que son efficacité pratique. Il y a une différence frappante entre les critiques ouvertement hostiles auxquelles les premiers soutiens favorables à une pratique collaborative ont été confrontés et les types de défis qu’ils doivent aujourd’hui relever. Plutôt que l’expression d’une anxiété quant au fait que les collaborations communautaires puissent représenter une menace existentielle pour l’archéologie en tant que discipline, l’argument des critiques actuelles est qu’elles ont échoué à se démarquer de manière significative d’un statu quo conservateur et des méthodes extractives de recherche qu’il perpétue. Je m’attache à reconstituer la trajectoire des réactions critiques à l’archéologie collaborative depuis le début des années 1990 et je l’utilise avec des contributeurs comme un cadre de réflexion portant sur la nature de cette évolution soulignée par cette édition spéciale.

Resumen

Si la arqueología colaborativa está cruzando un umbral, como atestiguan varios contribuidores a este número especial, en ninguna parte queda más evidente que en la clase de escrutinio que atrae de los que son escépticos en cuanto a sus propósitos, su integridad ética/política y su eficacia práctica. Existe una diferencia notable entre las críticas abiertamente hostiles que enfrentaban los primeros promotores de la práctica colaborativa y los desafíos que abordan ahora. En vez del temor de que las colaboraciones basadas en la comunidad representen una amenaza existencial a la arqueología como disciplina, los críticos actuales plantean la objeción de que no han podido realizar una ruptura significativa con el orden conservador establecido y los modos de investigación extractivas perpetuados por ese orden. Sigo la trayectoria de las respuestas críticas a la arqueología colaborativa a partir de inicios de los años 1990 y utilizo esto como marco para pensar, junto con los contribuidores, acerca de la naturaleza del umbral marcado por este número especial.

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Correspondence to Alison Wylie.

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Wylie, A. Crossing a Threshold: Collaborative Archaeology in Global Dialogue. Arch 15, 570–587 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-019-09385-4

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Key Words

  • Collaborative research
  • Critical archaeology
  • Indigenous archaeology
  • Politics of archaeology