Archaeology is meant to be an impartial science, concerned with seeking the truth about the past for the benefit of all humankind. But as the practices and values of archaeology have been enshrined in cultural resource management, they have also gradually become entwined with the apparatus of state power and control, and bound up in bitter political conflicts with indigenous communities.
Laurajane Smith''s controversial new book dissects the nature and consequences of this clash of cultures. Her lucid appraisals of key debates such as NAGPRA, Kennewick and the repatriation of Tasmanian artefacts, show how indigenous communities in the US and Australia have confronted the pre-eminence of archaeological theory and discourse in the way the material remains of their past are cared for and controlled, and how this has challenged traditional archaeological thought and practice.
This is a much-needed survey of how relationships between indigenous peoples and the archaeological establishment have got into difficulties, and a pointer towards how things could move forward. It will be essential reading for those concerned with developing a just and equal dialogue with indigenous peoples about the role of archaeology in the research and management of their heritage.