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Collaborate, Condemn, or Ignore? Responding to Non-Archaeological Approaches to Archaeological Heritage

  • Suzie Thomas (a1)
Abstract

What do archaeologists do when approached by groups or individuals with unorthodox, or even simply inappropriate, approaches to, and ideas about the past? What should they do? While much guidance and literature points to education and engagement, in some of the more sensitive or difficult cases it is often more appealing, and simpler, to ignore the issue, in the hopes that it will simply go away. Similarly, on occasions when archaeologists step forward to criticize alternative approaches to archaeological heritage, this does not always meet with positive or desired results. In this paper, in light of recent personal experience with a controversial piece of television programming, I discuss different approaches to responding to challenges to the expertise (and authority) of archaeologists by problematic encounters with concepts of the past. I suggest that while there are arguments in support of (and against) all three of the approaches that I identify (collaboration, condemnation, or ignoring), none provide an absolute solution. In order to discuss these approaches, I draw upon key cases from the literature, as well as personal reflection.

Que font les archéologues lorsqu'ils sont abordés par des groupes ou individus avec des approches et idées peu orthodoxes, ou même carrément inappropriées par rapport au passé? Comment devraient-ils réagir? Tandis que conseils et littérature prônent le plus souvent éducation et engagement, dans des cas plus délicats ou difficiles il peut s'avérer plus simple et attrayant d'ignorer le problème en espérant qu'il va tout simplement disparaître. De même, quand les archéologues s'avancent pour critiquer des approches ‘différentes’ vis-à-vis du patrimoine archéologique, les résultats sont loin d'être toujours positifs ou tels qu'on les avait souhaités. Dans cet article, et suite à mes récentes expériences personnelles avec une émission télévisée controversée, j'examine plusieurs approches différentes répondant aux défis posés aux compétences (et à l'autorité) des archéologues par des confrontations problématiques avec les concepts du passé. Tandis qu'il existe des arguments pour (et contre) les trois approches que j'ai identifiées (collaborer, condamner ou ignorer), je suggère qu'aucune d'entre elles ne procure une solution parfaite. Je me réfère à des cas exemplaires de la littérature ainsi qu'à ma réflexion personnelle pour analyser ces démarches. Translation by Isabelle Gerges.

Was tun Archäologen, wenn Gruppen oder Einzelpersonen mit unorthodoxen oder schlichtweg unzutreffenden Deutungen und Ideen zur Vergangenheit an sie herantreten? Was sollten sie tun? Während viele Hinweise und Literatur Bildung und Engagement hervorheben, ist es bei manchen der sensibleren oder schwierigeren Fälle verlockender und einfacher, das Problem in der Hoffnung, es möge einfach verschwinden, zu ignorieren. Gleichermaßen führt es, wenn Archäologen sich exponieren, um „andere’ Ansätze zum archäologischen Erbe kritisch zu werten, nicht immer zu positiven oder gewünschten Resultaten. In diesem Beitrag diskutiert die Autorin vor dem Hintergrund persönlicher Erfahrungen mit einem kontroversen Beitrag eines Fernsehprogrammes verschiedene Ansätze, um Infragestellungen der Expertise (und Autorität) von Archäologen bei problematischen Auseinandersetzungen mit Konzepten der Vergangenheit zu begegnen. Die Verfasserin führt aus, dass, obwohl es Argumente für (und wider) alle drei Möglichkeiten, nämlich Zusammenarbeit, Verurteilung und Ignorierung gibt, keine von ihnen eine absolute Lösung darstellt. Um diese Ansätze zu diskutieren, werden Fallstudien aus der Literatur sowie auch persönliche Erlebnisse herangezogen. Translation by Heiner Schwarzberg.

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Corresponding author
[email: suzie.e.thomas@helsinki.fi]
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European Journal of Archaeology
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