“This book finally closes the door on the idea that archaeology can be or ever was apolitical. The case studies hammer home the concept that archaeology matters to today’s world, that the research conducted in the trenches also occurs at the barricades. This is an unapologetic and powerful call to action for all archaeologists.”—Charles E. Orser Jr., author of The Archaeology of Race and Racialization in Historic America
“Archaeologists have generally thought of their work, like so much in the social sciences and humanities, as benefiting society in some possibly abstract way. This volume offers a collection of articles that get down to brass tacks and show how archaeology can be social activism. The contributors offer highly compelling and largely theory-free case studies on how archaeology can positively impact issues of race, class, nationality, and gender on a global scale.”—William R. Caraher, coauthor of The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape
Presenting examples from the fields of critical race studies, cultural resource management, digital archaeology, environmental studies, and heritage studies, Trowels in the Trenches: Archaeology as Social Activism demonstrates the many different ways archaeology can be used to contest social injustice. This volume shows that activism in archaeology does not need to involve radical or explicitly political actions but can be practiced in subtler forms as a means of studying the past, informing the present, and creating a better future.
In case studies that range from the Upper Paleolithic period to the modern era and span the globe, contributors show how contemporary economic, environmental, political, and social issues are manifestations of past injustices. These essays find legacies of marginalization in art, toys, houses, and other components of the material world. As they illuminate inequalities and forgotten histories, these case studies exemplify how even methods such as 3-D modeling and database management can be activist when they are used to preserve artifacts and heritage sites and to safeguard knowledge over generations.
While the archaeologists in this volume focus on different topics and time periods and use many different practices in their research, they all seek to expand their work beyond the networks and perspectives of modern capitalism in which the discipline developed. These studies support the argument that at its core, archaeology is an interdisciplinary research endeavor armed with a broad methodological and theoretical arsenal that should be used to benefit all members of society.
Christopher P. Barton, assistant professor of archaeology at Francis Marion University, is coauthor of Historical Racialized Toys in the United States.