Archaeological Activism

Sunday, November 15th, 2015 by andrewreinhard
(Image: Birmingham Mail)

(Image: Birmingham Mail)

There is a lot to be angry about in archaeology. I lumped a handful of things to be mad at into a Punk Archaeology tune, “Darkaeology” (nsfw), but the list is sadly nowhere near exhaustive:

  • Funding (and lack thereof)
  • Jobs (and lack thereof)
  • Safety (lack of)
  • Publication (paywalls and author-paid Open Access)
  • Media coverage (the wrong/lazy kind)
  • Looters/nighthawks
  • Shady dealers
  • Sexism
  • ISIS/ISIL (and other groups)
  • Rupert Murdoch

Part of Punk is protest (remember all the anti-Reagan/Thatcher tunes in the ’80s?), and with the relaunch of Punk Archaeology, we as archaeologists need to think globally and act locally in order to affect change within (and outside of) our discipline, be it in helping to stop the illegal/illicit trade in antiquities, or in educating the public (down to the neighborhood, grassroots level) on what it is we do (and how they can participate), on stopping sexism. There’s plenty more. Punk Archaeology is public archaeology. Together we have a voice to demand change.

Protest in archaeology is not new. Take for example the call to save the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) at the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2012 (pictured above). In 2014, archaeologists, historians, and others rallied to the klaxon to stop the National Geographic Channel’s Nazi War Diggers program, which while initially successful, has now resurfaced via Clearstory in 2015 as Battlefield Recovery. Archaeologists have also been at the fore in protecting cultural heritage in conflict zones, most recently in Syria. Every Dig Sexism catalogues everyday sexism in the archaeology and heritage sectors via Twitter and a blog.

Punk Archaeology (and Punk archaeologists) should have an activism component, a Bat Signal, a rally point, a midnight bark. We can protest. We can support. We can educate. We can protect. If there is something in archaeology that you are passionate about, please write it up and email it here to Punk Archaeology for posting. We can try to take it viral, or at least put people in touch with one another to take action both online and on the ground.

-Andrew Reinhard, Punk Archaeology

One comment on “Archaeological Activism

  1. My senior thesis was titled “Public Reactions to Modern Archaeological Excavations” and only covered the problem of indifference and misunderstanding in North America alone. Whole books can be written on it.

    I wrote another shorter paper on the problem of looting and the politics surrounding it in regards to the Iraqi conflict.

    I could go on and on about this stuff. It ruffles my feathers.

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