Dealing with settler archeologists: Laura Kelvin, Lisa Hodgetts, ‘Unsettling Archaeology’, Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 44, 2020, pp. 1-19


Abstract: In this introduction to the special issue, we examine some of the ways that settler colonialism permeates archaeology in Canada and argue for unsettling approaches to archaeology. Archaeology is a product of and remains a tool for settler colonialism, often oppressing both people of the past and people in the present, especially Indigenous People, Black People, People of Colour, and LGBTQ2S+ community members. We call for unsettling research paradigms, which aim to disrupt the settler colonial foundations that continue to permeate archaeological work and ensure that it benefits only a select few. Unsettling approaches target not only the work we do as archaeologists, but also the structures our work operates through, including universities, museums, different levels of government, and heritage policy and legislation governing private sector archaeology. They require us to acknowledge and confront our relationships to settler colonialism and the ways we participate in it, in all aspects of our lives. Unsettling paradigms play out differently within each project and for each participant, depending on individuals’ unique relationships to settler colonialism, their own experiences, and the context. As illustrated in the papers in this special issue, they encompass themes of truth, listening, learning, feeling, relinquishing control, and building strong futures. To move towards an archaeology that is anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-mysogynist, we must address the deeply embedded colonialism, racism, and misogyny in Canadian settler colonial structures and society. We must start by addressing them within ourselves and the institutions that govern and support our work. Because the unequal power relations within archaeology are so entrenched and pervasive, change may come slowly. It will involve long-term commitment to an ongoing cycle of learning, feeling (particularly when we feel uncomfortable), questioning, and most importantly, acting.

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