Ethics and Ethical Critique in the Archaeology of Modern Conflict

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Ethics and Ethical Critique in the Archaeology of Modern Conflict

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Norwegian Archaeological Review


Moshenska, Gabriel

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Taylor & Francis Online




Abstract: Archaeological work on the remains of 20th century conflict presents a unique and challenging set of ethical problems that have yet to be explicitly addressed. These are prompted by working with witnesses and survivors, the often violent contestation of war memory narratives, questions of media and public representation, and our own political agendas. In light of these issues I argue here for a lively and dynamic ethical debate within the discipline of modern conflict archaeology. We need to move beyond the well-meaning platitudes of a redemptive ethics towards a more critical, transgressive model. I outline some of the key areas and issues for such a wide-ranging ethical discourse, summarized as a set of questions or discussion points. Finally I consider the possibility of a critical ethics for modern conflict archaeology, drawing on Judith Butler's model of critique as ethical praxis. Throughout this discussion I argue that the controversy inherent in modern conflict archaeology is its greatest strength, because it forces us to take a position of critical self-awareness both as individual practitioners and as a discipline.

Additional tags: public representation; politics; archaeology of modern conflict; critique and ethical praxis


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