Political agendas and sponsorship in archaeology

Posted on April 14, 2016


Another session that we videoed at TAG.

Session Abstract:

Research Question: What constitutes an appropriate and positive political engagement in archaeology?

As archaeological research moved beyond a leisure activity for the upper class, the discipline became dependent on external funding. Simultaneously, external political and legal developments expanded the remit of archaeology from generating narratives about the past to empowering minorities, combating ethnic disenfranchisement, and engaging in certain infamous national agendas (Arnold 1990; Kohl and Fawcett 1995; Díaz-Andreu and Champion 1996; Hamilakis 2007a). How then do we reconcile these two developments; the need for funding and the social context of archaeological research? Can we generate income that does not come with an attached agenda, thereby leaving us free to substitute another? If so what agenda should that be? Hamilakis notes the absence of discussion on “the ethics and politics of sponsorship of archaeological projects by major corporations with questionable environmental and human rights records” (2007b: 34). We cannot deny the social and political power of archaeology. Given this, we should no longer conduct research without being able to articulate our own position in regards to the agendas set by our sponsors.
This session aims to foster a discussion on the political merits of archaeology and nontraditional avenues for funding. It will cover a variety of politically engaged archaeology, across time periods and regions with the aim of generating a discourse on the positive impact of this relationship. We hope to enable all participants to leave the session with the awareness necessary to articulate their position on the relationship between funding, external agendas, and political activism.

The papers will address, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • The perceived “value” of archaeology.
  • Archaeological funding bodies, and how they subsequently affect the research undertaken.
  • The political and social context of archaeological work around the world.
  • The division of archaeology into competing communities- academia, commercial sector, public sector.
  • The regeneration of archaeological narrative as a means of enacting change.Arnold, B. (1990) The past as propaganda: totalitarian archaeology in Nazi Germany. Antiquity 64: 464–478.
    Díaz-Andreu, M. and Champion, T. eds. (1996) Nationalism and archaeology in Europe, London: UCL Press.
    Hamilakis, Y. (2007a) The nation and its ruins, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Hamilakis, Y. (2007b) From ethics to politics. In Y. Hamilakis and P. Duke, eds. Archaeology and capitalism. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc., 15–40.
    Kohl, P. and Fawcett, C. (eds.) (1995) Nationalism, politics, and the practice of archaeology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Session organisers: Emily HANSCAM, Floor HUISMAN, Michelle de GRUCHY, Ed CASWELL and Côme PONROY (University of Durham)

Follow the money: who funds UK archaeology PhDs?

This paper will examine the broad range of sources that have funded PhDs in UK Archaeology and how they have changed over the years. From traditional sources, such as Research Councils, to new methods, like Crowdfunding, this paper will investigate the political implications of these different sources. More importantly, it uses data stretching back decades to show the changing funders and political nature of Archaeology. It will illustrate how PhD funding has shaped the profession in the past and might continue to do so in the future.

Doug ROCKS-MACQUEEN (Landward Research Ltd.)

Poachers and gamekeepers: Palaeolithic archaeology as a niche market in the commercial sector

Palaeolithic archaeology is rarely encountered during commercial archaeological projects but when it appears is often problematic. This is because the contracting organisations usually lack the expertise to undertake project planning, fieldwork and interpretation and, with some notable exceptions, curatorial staff within planning departments are also ill prepared to advise on such matters. Consequently when Palaeolithic archaeological concerns arise during development both the units and curatorial staff usually turn to a small pool of archaeologists and Quaternary scientists that exist in the UK who are able to provide the expertise to find, excavate and interpret the archaeology. These specialists are often to be found in university departments or national museums and they are commonly the same workers who might be providing inputs to academic research agendas. Consequently the academic versus professional debate is meaningless as we are both poacher and gamekeeper in the system. Such a situation both advances and impedes the discipline and this talk aims to highlight the way in which these practices are undertaken in S E England. Two major projects are considered. Firstly the large scale, multi-phase works associated with the construction of High Speed 1 will be described in order to articulate the procedures and problems associated with complex landscapes, multiple time periods and different organisations working in parallel with each other. The second project is a small scale project undertaken at Harnham in Wiltshire developed as part of a road evaluation scheme that was ultimately abandoned.

Martin R. BATES (University of Wales Trinity Saint David)

Transmedial archaeology: a deep map of regenerating narratives.

“Transmedia intertextuality works to position consumers as powerful players while disavowing commercial manipulation” wrote Marsha Kinder in 1991, as she coined the term ‘transmedia’ to encompass interactive, multifaceted platforms as a seed for change in which ideological conflicts within established and reforming narratives can seek to attain unification. Transmedia projects utilize a plethora of different semiotic modes in order to reinforce one another, in this way they can be a form of deep map where a mixture of voices (and associated agendas) interdigitate to further a single overarching objective that speaks to a wider audience than each factor could attain on their own. When applied to archaeology this can allow for an opening of both expression and method that leads one away from the conventional sources of funding and into dangerous waters where art and science meet. Geomythology sits as a bridge across this water. Geology, geography and mythology are commonly divided into competing communities within the same physical landscape. However geomythology can be harnessed to ease these boundaries into a shared engagement with both space and time. Academic and non-academic sectors can take an equal stand. However, this requires a radical reappraisal of how we finance such research, for it does not fit neatly into our long established boundaries, nor is it easy to navigate the political minefield of ploughing up outmoded ways of thinking. This paper does not aspire to have an answer to such a dilemma, rather it asks the question: How do we fund a politically sensitive marriage between disciplines under the narrative umbrella of archaeological representation? In so doing it examines the value of archaeology as an inherently transmedial field that lends itself to being a positive conduit for changing perceptions on landscapes of both the ground and of the imagination.
Kinder, M. (1991). Playing with power in movies, television, and video games, From muppet babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. University of California Press: Berkeley; Los Angeles; Oxford.

K.E. KAVANAGH (University of Wales Trinity Saint David)

Funding, community archaeology, and understanding everyday life in Roman Cumbria

Little is known about the ‘native’ inhabitants of Roman Cumbria. Although they ‘may have represented 80% or more of the total population’ (Visit Hadrian’s Wall n.d.) and it has been repeatedly stated that we cannot hope to understand the nature of everyday life in the region unless we have a more detailed picture of them (Breeze and Dobson 2000: 215; Symonds and Mason 2009: 51), the reality is that we know almost as little about the ‘native’ as antiquarians did in the 19th century. This cannot be explained, as it has been in some previous studies, solely by the fact that rural settlements are materially-‘poor’ in comparison to forts and their associated civilian settlements (vici) of the same period. Instead, this paper will argue that it indicates a divide between the topics which we are arguing should be studied and those which are being studied. To better understand this it will explore how Roman archaeology is valued in Cumbria, a region which is physically and conceptually dominated by Hadrian’s Wall, and pay particular attention to the relationship between community- and research-driven projects, and general perceptions of life in Roman Britain. It will pay particular attention to the role played by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which stresses that archaeological projects provide an excellent opportunity for local communities to learn new skills and engage with their heritage (Heritage Lottery Fund 2013: 3), in a recent flurry of vicus excavations, and explore what impact this is having on our understanding of everyday life in Roman Cumbria.
Breeze, D. J. and Dobson, B. (2000) Hadrian’s Wall. 4th edition. Penguin Books: London
Heritage Lottery Fund (2013) Archaeology – good practice guide . Available at: http://closedprogrammes.hlf.org.uk/HowToApply/goodpractice/Pages/ArchaeologyGuidan ce.aspx#.VGy_1bcqVdg Accessed 19/11/14
Symonds, M.F.A. and Mason, D.J.P. (eds.) (2009) Frontiers of knowledge: a research framework for Hadrian’s Wall, part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site, Volume II: agenda and strategy. Durham County Council/Durham University: Durham
Visit Hadrian’s Wall (n.d.) Conquered and conquerors. Available at: http://www.visithadrianswall.co.uk/hadrians-wall/life-on-hadrians-wall/conquered-andconquerors Accessed 21/10/15

Jennifer PEACOCK (University of Worcester)

Can digging make you happy? Archaeological excavations, happiness and heritage

Current government agendas for investigating the ‘Gross National Happiness’ have spurred private and commercial organisations to consider whether their work has the potential to influence peoples’ happiness and sense of wellbeing (Aked, Marks, Cordon Thompson, 2008). The role of archaeology projects has yet to be considered, despite the body of research pertaining to their wider social values (Kiddey and Schofield, 2010, Simpson, 2010). By combining quantitative methodological wellbeing measures offered by Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Modified Wellbeing Survey (MWS), this research evaluates if it is possible to identify the role archaeological projects play in enhancing wellbeing. The analysis of the quantitative data is used to assess whether it is possible to
quantitatively identify and link changes in cultural values to involvements in heritage projects. This paper sets out a methodological framework for analysing heritage.

Faye SAYER (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Are museums in the United Kingdom less objective as a result of the 2008 recession?

Similar to most industries, the museum sector has unquestionably suffered as a result of the credit crunch. This paper will investigate the relationship between funding and objectivity within museums. In particular, it will discuss the extent to which the most recent global economic downturn has affected the impartiality of UK museums, with specific consideration given to the differences between ‘science’ museums and ‘arts’ museums. This study investigates whether corporate funding has increased as government funding has decreased, and how this has affected the role of the museum professional. This issue is undeniably emotive and controversial; the idea of money buying influence and power in a sector which is ‘for the people’ usually is. The media furore and public outrage at lobbying and ‘cash for influence’ scandals involving UK politicians in recent years are perfect examples of this. The emotive nature of the topic makes it worthy of discussion. The museum audience, the general public, are entitled to know if the information which is perceived to be objective and impartial is actually influenced by funders. The museum audience should appreciate museums may not be objective, and may have never been, and have the opportunity to make informed decisions about the information museums offer them. This paper aims to give individuals the material they need in order to make those informed decisions and answer the question ‘are museums less objective since the 2008 recession?’

Amy WALLING (Manchester Metropolitan University)

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