Institute of Archaeology



Erased from the Past: Bringing marginalised people into Archaeology | Wed Dec 18 14:00:00 | Room 784

As more marginalised people are making their way into Archaeology we are coming to terms more with how those people are not represented in our research. Until more recently, the past has been written as though these people did not exist in the past. Increasingly, we are becoming aware that they did, but have been largely erased in archaeological narratives. Examples include the lack of discussion of gender beyond the Western binary, erasing homosexual relationships and gender dysphoria, erasing gendered bodily experiences (such as menstruation and menopause) and ‘whitewashing’ experiences of people of colour. This session invites discussion into research on erased people or practices that explores why this has happened and continues to happen. We invite short position papers proposing ways forward to redress these imbalances, with a focus on the ethics of such archaeological practice.

Session timetable
14:00 | Zena Kamash, Royal Holloway University


14:10 | Louise Fowler, MOLA

Gideon Mendel in Calais: what are the ethical implications?

I will reflect on the work we’ve been doing at MOLA with the things collected by Gideon Mendel in Calais could be seen as research on marginal people. What are the ethics of this work? What’s the line between participation and asking people to perform their refugee status for a western audience? In addition, a key aim of the project is to examine and question the methodologies that we use for our work on the deeper past, so I will discuss ways forward in terms of methodology, and what this work means for archaeology more generally.

14:20 | Iida Käyhkö, Royal Holloway, University of London

Truth to Power

My research with the Kurdish diaspora community raises key issues about working with stateless peoples and diaspora communities. The tendency of erasing these pasts within archaeology becomes more pronounced when any engagement with the community in question is viewed as politically risky — and may in some cases be criminalised. We see this process at work when existing community projects engaging with Kurdish heritage are unableto gain institutional support. We see it in the general lack of opportunities for Kurdish people and communities to define and narrate their own pasts. The challenge within archaeology is to lean into the political nature of our work: how do we carry out research which builds up the power and agency of the communities we work with? I discuss how a commitment to bringing communal autonomy into our research projects challenges the status quo of archaeology and makes it necessary to rethink our roles as archaeologists, academics and activists.

14:30 | Henrietta Ali Ahmed, Royal Holloway

The Archaeology of Uncertainty

My research is using archaeology to understand how the Palestinian refugee communities in the Lebanon perpetuate their culture and their heritage.These displaced people are marginalised, many of them in camps. They are not only stateless and denied citizenship in Lebanon but are also deprived of many basic rights. Palestinians have been living in uncertainty for the last 70 years. Their possessions, their land, their lives have disappeared; there is no material trace of their existence in Palestine. In the past they have featured in the archaeological record of Palestine in the work of people like Kenyon and Petrie but more recently evidence of their existence is being ignored, sold privately, destroyed or hijacked by the government of Israel. Palestinians communities in Lebanon are fighting this erasure by archiving objects and documents as proof of their existence, even using new technology to share these with others. However, it is not just the tangible that they are trying to preserve and pass on to future generations they are also sustaining the intangible. Palestinians want to publicise their plight, desperate to be seen and heard, fighting being erased from not only the past but also the present.

14:40 | Louise Fowler, MOLA; Iida Käyhkö, Royal Holloway, University of London; Henrietta Ali Ahmed, Royal Holloway

Panel Discussion 1

15:30 | BREAK
16:00 | Heba Abd El Gawad, Durham University

“So you think you are reconnecting local communities with their heritage? Well it’s you who is disconnected!!!”

Current public engagement is in danger of becoming a tick boxing exercise where archaeological projects claim they are reconnecting people from the Middle East and North Africa with their heritage while in reality communities are actively engaged constantly. The unrecognised problem is that the perception of both heritage and reconnection for these communities is unique, local, and more people needs oriented in contrast to the brushed scientific definitions in the academic heritage discourse.

16:10 | Laura Hampden, Museum Detox; Laura Hampden, Historic England, Museum Detox, CIfA Equality and Diversity Group

Black Women in the Archaeological Record.

“I’m looking for books or papers on representations of Black women in the archaeological record”. This was a recent query sent to a UK BAME heritage network that I’m part of this year. I looked forward to seeing some interesting responses and links to books or papers that I hadn’t yet read, but I’m still waiting! This paper will briefly examine the representation of Black women in the archaeological record here in the UK, in the US and in the Caribbean. While archaeological data and theory can be employed to investigate the experience of Black women in the past, the lack of diversity within the profession severely limits our understanding, and interpretation of this experience. It argues that if we are to move beyond a monotonous historical or archaeological narrative then we must learn to contend with the multiple and conflicting ideas and 10 mins social constructions of black womanhood.

16:20 | D. Kalani Heinz, University of California, Los Angeles

No Hetero!: Making way for alternative ways of knowing within archaeology

I can count on three fingers the number of doctorate holding Native Hawaiian Hawaiian archaeologists. While this might seem surprising to some, to me this reiterates a glaring issue within archaeology. We have a diversity problem and it impacts the way we think. When we do not expose ourselves to people whose norms are different from our own, our internal biases go unquestioned and we risk retelling the same old narratives. In order to recognize marginalized identities in the past, we must first start by questioning how the experiences of certain groups are delegitimized in modernity, especially by our institutions, and how this contributes to a lack of diversity within archaeological programs.Specifically, we must consider how our systemsdiscourage diversity by requiring certain coursework that is irrelevant, if not culturally insensitive, to certain students, andmust reexamine how ourclassroom environments contribute to the erasure of certain voices. This paper examines Hawaiian culture-based programs and wānanga in New Zealand to understand how integrating the ideologies of non-dominant cultures into education has been accomplished in modernity and to synthesize a list of ways our own universities can be modified to make it more friendly to diverse perspectives. Further, to expand on the promises integrating alternative ways of knowing holds for archaeology, I use a case study inspired by Native Feminist theories which reveals how acknowledging Hawaiian worldviews leads to the realization of non-binary, non-monogamous, and non-heterosexual identities in the Hawaiian past.

16:30 | Miller Power, Durham University

Theorising Queers in the Roman World

Even within the LGBTQ+ community it is assumed that being queer is a fairly new phenomenon, especially queer genders. This paper will explore queer identities in the Roman world, and reception of the Roman world that erases them.

16:40 | Heba Abd El Gawad, Durham University; Laura Hampden, Museum Detox; Laura Hampden, Historic England, Museum Detox, CIfA Equality and Diversity Group; D. Kalani Heinz, University of California, Los Angeles; Miller Power, Durham University

Panel Discussion 2

17:30 | END