What makes us squirm - a critical assessment of community-oriented archaeology

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La Salle, Marina
Hutchings, Richard
We provide a critical response to Andrew Martindale and Natasha Lyons’ 2014 special section on Community-Oriented Archaeology (Canadian Journal of Archaeology Volume 38, Issue 2), discussing the authors’ definitions, interpretations, and motivations around archaeology and community. By not defining archaeology in terms of how it is most commonly practiced, we argue the collective work misses the mark, with serious consequences for descendent communities. We show how Community-Oriented Archaeology appropriates the challenge posed to archaeologists to make their discipline relevant and responsive to Indigenous communities; instead, the authors foreground archaeology itself and reaffirm the privilege of non-Indigenous archaeologists, especially academic archaeologists. By considering what is excluded and taken-for-granted, we examine the special section in terms of selection bias and revisionist history. We suggest Community-Oriented Archaeology co-opts aspects of Indigenous, critical, and radical discourses to legitimize the institution and practice, in the process forgetting what is at stake for Indigenous peoples. Rather than focusing on the needs of archaeology and archaeologists, we emphasize the interests of Indigenous communities and address uncomfortable truths about institutional racism and systemic inequality. As the editors had hoped, Community-Oriented Archaeology makes us “squirm,” but not for the reasons they intended.
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