The Archaeology of Politics and the Politics of Archaeology


How we study, interpret, present, and preserve the past is never isolated from broader concerns in society. In the currently polarized environment, the meaning of history and cultural heritage has taken on an unavoidable salience in political discourse. What is at stake is the ability to set the terms of conversations about national identity, cultural patrimony, illicit antiquities, war, and natural resource extraction, among many others. This course therefore addresses three questions: (1) how do archaeologists study politics in the past, (2) how does archaeological knowledge figure into politics (3) how is the creation of knowledge about the past inflected by present-day politics? To answer these questions, we will engage with a range of exemplary case studies that reveal the breadth and depth of the ways that scholars have examined the political in archaeology. Central themes in this course will concern archaeological methods and theory for studying ancient polities and political action in the past, conflict within and between polities, the use and abuse of archaeological knowledge, archaeology and nationalism, colonialism, the political economy of archaeological fieldwork, labor in and as a subject of archaeological research, archaeology and public policy, as well as archaeology as a form of political action. We will confront numerous challenging topics, with the perspective that archaeology is far from a dusty esoteric pursuit, but rather a terrain of meaningful struggle between experts, funders, stakeholders, descendant communities, state bureaucracies, institutions, and a range of publics. Students will gain an in depth understanding of both how archaeologists have valuable knowledge to contribute to the study of politics as such as well as the political issues facing archaeology in the world today.
Course Attributes: AS HUM; AS LCD; AS SC; FA HUM; AR HUM; AS SSC; EN S

Section 01

The Archaeology of Politics and the Politics of Archaeology
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