This post is an introduction to the November Guest Blogging Effort by Members of the American Anthropological Association Archaeology Division Executive Board. We are looking forward to having engaged dialog with Savage Minds readers on how the relationship between archaeology and anthropology can be rebuilt in the 21st Century! Jane Eva Baxter is coordinating this guest blogging effort and is the outgoing Secretary of the AAA Archaeology Division Executive Board.
American archaeology has long found its home both structurally and intellectually within the four fields of anthropology. The relationship between archaeology and socio-cultural anthropology has deep historical roots based in large part on shared interests in societies considered “pre-modern” or “traditional,” and early scholarship in both subfields mutually informed and enriched one another. The postmodern turn in the 1980s and 1990s created a rift between these sub-fields and this fissure has permeated both disciplinary structures and intellectual inquiry. The historical commonalities between these two areas of inquiry has been strained, and this tension is reflected in a notable decrease in professional and scholarly engagement between practitioners of these subfields.
The Archaeology Division (AD) of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) was founded in 1983 to advance the study of archaeology as an aspect of anthropology, to provide a forum for members to discuss issues central to the development of archaeology, and to foster the publication and communication of the results of archaeological research and interpretation to anthropologists, to other scholars, and to the general public. In the wake of the tumultuous intellectual reflexivity of the postmodern turn, the Archaeology Division is seeking to rethink the relationship between archaeology and anthropology, not because of a shared history but rather on the basis of a shared future that is centered on issues of contemporary practice and relevance. Contemporary archaeology includes many dimensions of practice that meaningfully situate the study of the past in the present including: ethical concerns regarding stakeholder communities; partnerships in the stewardship of sites and collections; dialogs in heritage management; engagements with community; and the accountability of archaeology to the public.
These aspects of 21st century archaeological practice create new ways for creating meaningful, engaged relationships with the broader field of anthropology. Recasting the relationship between these subfields as contemporary as well as historic requires a significant commitment of time, resources, and energy. A two-day retreat was held in June at the Amerind Foundation in Dragoon, Arizona where the AD Executive Board met to participate in extended conversation and planning around the possibilities for building a new relationship between archaeology and anthropology in the 21st Century. In addition to discussing the contemporary dynamics shaping current relationships among the anthropological subfields, several practical initiatives were developed to be implemented in upcoming years. These include:
- Creating new professional development opportunities for practicing professionals and students that emphasize dynamics of contemporary practice including workshops, webinars, and forums
- Actively soliciting session organizers to create panels and forums for the AAA Annual Meetings that bring together practitioners and scholars from different subfields of anthropology.
- Fostering synergistic publications that integrate perspectives from different anthropological subfields and that bring different types of anthropologists into direct conversation.
- Developing a new blog and a new listserv to enable more rapid, interactive conversations in anthropological archaeology.
- Increasing the social media presence of AD through Twitter and Facebook and other emerging platforms to promote dialog and highlight collaborative initiatives.
These initiatives all share a common theme: to bring anthropologically minded scholars from all subfields together around common interests and issues of concern. For any or all of these initiatives to bear fruit, it is essential that they resonate with the broader discipline and that these general ideas become enacted in ways that meet the needs of the contemporary anthropological community. Disseminating the results of the retreat in interactive formats offers the possibility of engaged conversation and commentary as these ideas are developed and implemented. During November, the AD is offering a series of guest blog posts on Savage Minds that highlight some of our proposed initiatives, as well as insights into the broader contextualizing dialogs that brought them to be. These posts will focus on:
- Intersections between archaeology and anthropology in the context of contemporary practice
- The AAA as a venue to rebuild the relationship between archaeology and anthropology
- Shared theoretical and intellectual relationships between archaeology and anthropology in the 21st century
- Connecting beyond the meetings- using social media and digital platforms to develop ongoing relationships
We hope readers will light up the commentary boxes for us with feedback, comments, questions, and new ideas to consider. We also want to acknowledge the generous support of the Amerind Foundation, and the caring attention of the Amerind staff during our time in Dragoon. The ability to have sustained, engaged conversation in such a welcoming and comfortable environment was invaluable! We look forward to continuing the conversation with you!