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Theoretical Challenges of Indigenous Archaeology: Setting an Agenda

  • Ian J. McNiven (a1)
Abstract

Indigenous archaeology focuses on laudable processes of collaborative community research and decolonization. In contrast, theoretical contributions of Indigenous archaeology in terms of interpreting archaeological materials have been minimally articulated beyond praxis. Does Indigenous archaeology have an interpretative theoretical agenda? This paper addresses this question and articulates an agenda through distillation of theoretical developments and concerns from the considerable literature on Indigenous archaeology that has emerged from the Americas, Australia, and Africa over the past two decades. A shared fundamental concern is challenging ontological and epistemological divides and dualisms within mainstream Western archaeology. Two key dimensions of Indigenous archaeology are elaborated to provide broader scope to contextualize and address these theoretical challenges. First, encountering the past challenges objectivist tangibility of the archaeological record with ancestral presence and contexts where artifactual absence is the (in)tangible signature of spiritual association. Second, historicing the present challenges secularist archaeologies of a detached past with archaeologies of the more familiar ethnographically known recent past linked to identity and diachronic explorations of ontology and spiritualism. An agenda that embraces these theoretical challenges presents major opportunities for mainstream archaeology to reorient its Eurocentric focus and produce more cross-culturally relevant and culturally nuanced and sensitive understandings of the past.

La arqueología indígena se focaliza en loables procesos de investigación comunal colaborativa y de descolonización. En contraste, las contribuciones teóricas de la arqueología indígena en términos de la interpretación de los restos arqueológicos han estado mínimamente articuladas más allá de la práctica. ¿Tiene la arqueología indígena una agenda teórica interpretativa? Este trabajo se focaliza en este punto y articula una agenda a través del procesamiento de los desarrollos y preocupaciones teóricas de una considerable literatura de la arqueología indígena que ha surgido en América, Australia y África a lo largo de las dos décadas pasadas. Un interés compartido fundamental es el desafío a las divisiones y dualismos ontóldgicos y epistemológicos existentes dentro de la arqueología occidental dominante. Dos dimensiones claves de la arqueología indígena se elaboran para proporcionar un ámbito más amplio para contextualizar y abordar esos desafíos teóricos. Primero, encontrar el pasado desafía la tangibilidad objetivista del registro arqueológico con la presencia ancestral y contextos donde la ausencia artefactual es la señal (in)tangible de asociación espiritual. En segundo, historizar el presente desafía las arqueologías seculares de un pasado distante con arqueologías del pasado reciente más familiar etnográficamente conocido relacionadas con la identidady exploraciones diacrónicas de ontología y espiritualismo. Una agenda que abarque esos desafíos teóricos brinda a la corriente principal de la arqueología oportunidades importantes para reorientar sufoco eurocéntrico y producir comprensiones del pasado más relevantes transculturalmente, cultural y sensitivamente matizadas.

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