Activating Archaeology: Commentary on the Theme Issue "Archaeology as Empowerment: For Whom and How?"

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We live in a paradoxical world in which humanity has accumulated more wealth than ever before – but we have distributed it less equitably than ever before (e.g., Christiansen and Jensen 2019). This is not a new insight. Most archaeologists, at least since the Processual – Post-Processual debates, acknowledge that they work within inequality. As Gabriel Moshenska (p. 49),1 quoting Collingwood puts it: “I know that all my life I have been engaged unawares in a political struggle, fighting against these things in the dark. Henceforth I shall fight in the daylight.” This quote nicely encapsulates the intent of this important Archaeology as Empowerment theme issue that marks the 10th anniversary of Forum Kritische Archäologie. Archaeology is well-positioned to recognise the materiality of inequality in the past – and also in the present and potentially the future through a lens of climate change, war, poverty, and by utilising broad-scale social and technological innovations from the past (e.g., Boivin and Crowther 2021). We are perhaps the only field of enquiry to study human history in all of its facets (because we ‘steal’ or creatively repurpose so many insights and technologies from others, which can have its issues). But, as Nicolas Zorzin (p. 74) points out, our intervention can range from being a ‘prefix archaeology’ add-on to a ‘scientific’ project to a whole-hearted reorienting of archaeological work to empower people other than ourselves. However, there is a paucity of guidance on the ‘middle range’ and day-to-day actions we can take – and this theme issue offers 19 authored pieces with diverse themes, case studies, actions, and geographies tied to ‘activist’ archaeologies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20
Pages (from-to)154-162
Number of pages9
JournalForum Kritische Archaologie
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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