Theme 02: Politics

John Carman (University of Birmingham) and Hilary A Soderland (University of Washington)

It is increasingly widely recognised that – like it or not – archaeology is as much a political activity as it is a purely intellectual endeavour. In recognition of the varied ways in which issues of power and authority affect and imbue archaeological practice and theory, this Theme invites sessions that seek to explore archaeology as politics in all its manifestations.

Politics inevitably emerges in our dealings with others. Sessions may address issues of disciplinary authority and how they impact upon ourselves and others; the controls we exercise over material culture; the role of archaeology and archaeologists in public policy at the level of the locality and the nation state; the role of archaeology in diplomacy and international relations; and the conduct of archaeology in conflict zones.

Politics is also a factor in our relations within our working environments. Sessions might consider archaeology as a public service; the role of the archaeologist as a ‘public intellectual’; pressures upon archaeologists to present or conform to particular ideological positions; the privatisation and commercialisation of archaeology; and the relations of archaeologists to each other, to colleagues and to students. Sessions may also look at the politics of publication and of the archaeological conference.

Overall, the Theme aims to provide environments for the consideration of politics in both the practice and theory of the discipline, as well as the politics of the relationship between theory and practice. Sessions can be of any form: we invite especially those that take an innovative and original shape, and those led by non-archaeologists. The politics of archaeology affects us all, and we all have a role in politics. This Theme will explore the interconnection between these aspects of our work.

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