Session: #69

Theme & Session Format

Archaeological theory and methods beyond paradigms
Session format:
Session with precirculated papers

Title & Content

Populism, Identity Politics and the Archaeology of Europe [EJA]
Recent election results, debates and demonstrations leave no doubt: populism is back. History and archaeology are increasingly used to bolster such feelings of resentment of the present by apparently providing a vision of a more flattering past. This is the case e.g. for archaeogenetic narratives which can be spun to support claims of indigeneity and racial purity, heritage presentations which stress the most glorious periods of a nation (as defined by a subset of the population) or romantic notions of a lost folk culture and unity in an as yet unthreatened Fortress Europe.
Archaeology has always been political and archaeologists are very well aware of these appropriations of their work. Yet, we have been largely reactive rather than proactive. A minority of archaeologists have begun to be more directly involved in documenting the crisis as it unfolds, joining activist groups and organisations, and writing archaeological narratives that provoke rather than pander. Yet, as a field, there is a widespread feeling that we can do more.
In this session, we seek contributions which grapple with the interpenetration of populism and European archaeology—in the field, in the classroom, in the museum, on social media or in the legislature. We see this session as an opportunity to develop a proactive stance: How can we avoid the appropriation of our research and react when this happens? How do we choose what to display? Can we use our research to advise policy makers? How can we turn the impact of the media to our advantage? And how do we deal with sites that have a history of misuse or with periods and themes that lend themselves to it? What are the ethics of doing archaeology in an environment of increasingly virulent populist politics?
populism, use/misuse of archaeology, political context of archaeological narratives, ethics
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Main organiser:
Catherine Frieman (Australia) 1
Daniela Hofmann (Norway) 2
1. School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University
2. Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen