The Politics and Practice of Archaeology in Conflict

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The Politics and Practice of Archaeology in Conflict

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Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites


Perring, Dominic and van der Linde, Sjoerd

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Taylor & Francis Online




Abstract: This introductory paper reviews recent writings on archaeology and conflict, setting the other contributions to this volume into context. We draw attention to the political nature of archaeological work, and to the problems of reconciling professional interest in the protection and management of cultural property with needs of communities affected by war. We focus on two areas of current concern — the ethical and moral dimension to professional conduct, and the need to reconcile post-processual critiques of practice with the need to draw on empirical science in the competent conduct of work — finding middle ground in both areas of debate. We also conclude that heritage management and archaeological practice have an important contribution to make in the rehabilitation of war-torn societies, but that the top-down approaches that are most widely favoured can fail to meet the needs of local communities. Best archaeological practice should build from an understanding of local socio-political and cultural power structures, draw on assessments of need, and build upon a notion of heritage that moves beyond the purely materialistic. The concept of heritage as 'care' is perhaps more important to our work than that of 'curation'.

Additional tags: conflict; heritage management; local socio-political and power structures


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