Research Ethics In Archaeology

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Course Title

Research Ethics In Archaeology


Alison Wylie

Institution Where Taught

University of Washington

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Course Description

Archaeological practice raises profoundly challenging ethics issues. With the majority of employed archaeologists now working in culture resource management many find themselves caught between the goals and standards of their profession and the demands of diverse employers, oversight agencies, and stakeholders. Further conflicts arise between research goals and the commitments entailed by a conservation ethic; these are especially sharply drawn in debate about the professional use of looted or commercially traded material. But most urgent and most transformative are the issues of accountability raised by descendant communities, especially Indigenous, Aboriginal and First Nations communities who regard archaeological sites and artifacts as their cultural heritage and may see little value in archaeological research. So the central question we address in this seminar is: to whom and to what are archaeologists accountable? In particular: What responsibilities do archaeologists have to those whose cultural heritage they study? Do archaeologists have an obligation to protect the archaeological record – to “save the past for the future” – and how is this balanced against a commitment to the goals of inquiry? Is it legitimate to work with looted and/or commercially traded archaeological material? How should archaeologists navigate conflicts between the demands of those they work for and the range of other stakeholders to whom they are accountable? [Selection from course description. Please see complete description at URL provided.]

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Additional tags: ethical case studies; ethical codes; research ethics; Culture Resource Management


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