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Negotiating the past: Collaborative practice in cultural heritage research

by

Public History
7 November 2012
Professor Alison Wylie (University of Washington)
Negotiating the past: Collaborative practice in cultural heritage research

 

Archaeological Dig, Monks Field, Partney (Wikipedia Commons)

Archaeological Dig, Monks Field, Partney (Wikipedia Commons)

Abstract: Archaeology has seen a major sea change in the last few decades as any number of stakeholders, especially Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations descendant communities, demand accountability to their interests, their conventions of practice and conceptions of cultural heritage. What are the implications of this for archaeological practice? Internal debate in North America has been dominated by anxieties about the costs of response to these demands: the focus is on high profile examples of research opportunities lost and professional autonomy compromised by legal constraints and by intractable conflict. All too often this obscures local initiatives that illustrate what becomes possible when practice is reframed as a form of intellectual and cultural collaboration. In the case of collaborations with Native American communities, the archaeologists involved describe innumerable ways in which their research programs have been enriched, empirically and conceptually. I explore the legacies of community-based collaborative practice in archaeology, focusing on their implications for procedural norms that govern the adjudication of empirical robustness and credibility. I argue that conditions for effective critical engagement must include a requirement to take seriously forms of expertise that lie outside the research community.

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