Cosmopolitan Archaeologies

Cosmopolitan Archaeologies

Material Worlds

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Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 10 illustrations Published: April 2009

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies

An important collection, Cosmopolitan Archaeologies delves into the politics of contemporary archaeology in an increasingly complex international environment. The contributors explore the implications of applying the cosmopolitan ideals of obligation to others and respect for cultural difference to archaeological practice, showing that those ethics increasingly demand the rethinking of research agendas. While cosmopolitan archaeologies must be practiced in contextually specific ways, what unites and defines them is archaeologists’ acceptance of responsibility for the repercussions of their projects, as well as their undertaking of heritage practices attentive to the concerns of the living communities with whom they work. These concerns may require archaeologists to address the impact of war, the political and economic depredations of past regimes, the livelihoods of those living near archaeological sites, or the incursions of transnational companies and institutions.

The contributors describe various forms of cosmopolitan engagement involving sites that span the globe. They take up the links between conservation, natural heritage and ecology movements, and the ways that local heritage politics are constructed through international discourses and regulations. They are attentive to how communities near heritage sites are affected by archaeological fieldwork and findings, and to the complex interactions that local communities and national bodies have with international sponsors and universities, conservation agencies, development organizations, and NGOs. Whether discussing the toll of efforts to preserve biodiversity on South Africans living near Kruger National Park, the ways that UNESCO’s global heritage project universalizes the ethic of preservation, or the Open Declaration on Cultural Heritage at Risk that the Archaeological Institute of America sent to the U.S. government before the Iraq invasion, the contributors provide nuanced assessments of the ethical implications of the discursive production, consumption, and governing of other people’s pasts.

Contributors. O. Hugo Benavides, Lisa Breglia, Denis Byrne, Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Alfredo González-Ruibal, Ian Hodder, Ian Lilley, Jane Lydon, Lynn Meskell, Sandra Arnold Scham


Cosmopolitan Archaeologies is a highly recommended volume for any individual engaged in anthropological research, not strictly archaeology. The perspectives presented in this volume span a large range of practical and deeply theoretical topics, all of which present insightful and challenging perspectives that could serve to benefit any and all anthropologically involved persons, particularly those actively involved in fieldwork at home and abroad. This volume would make an excellent addition to any anthropological library, and should by its nature be in the collection of all university libraries.” — Robert Stark, Canadian Journal of Archaeology

Cosmopolitan Archaeologies is an important and thoughtful collection, one which demonstrates why the validity, not only the place, of the modern archaeological enterprise requires scrutiny.” — Timothy Clack, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Cosmopolitan Archaeologies is an interesting work and engages with many ideas of heritage management as well as illustrating how material culture and places are ascribed multiple meanings by different groups of people.” — Sarah Carr-Locke, Muse

“The range and quality of the case studies is impressive, and they are in fact very cosmopolitan in the sense that they include great diversity but still form a coherent whole. Lynn Meskell provides a lucid, well-written introduction. . . . One of the exceptional values of Cosmopolitan Archaeologies is that it contains its own critique. . . . In the end, I cannot dismiss this volume as simply old wine in a new bottle, because the wine here is very, very good. These papers do an excellent job of critically considering the political nature of heritage and of archaeological practice. And, although such considerations are not new in archaeology, they have not become nearly commonplace enough.” — Randall H. McGuire, Journal of Anthropological Research

“What emerges out of these finely argued and selected essays is a reinvigorated sense of the applicability and importance of archaeology, beyond its subject boundaries. Functioning in an interdisciplinary manner each essay reaches out to philosophy, literary theory, politics, and economics, among other fields, to nourish a better understanding of cultural and global capital and flux.” — David S. Mora, Ameriquests

”New pathways that unsettle prevailing state-centric discourses of ownership, memory and history are urgently needed. Cosmopolitanism Archaeologies represents an important and thought-provoking addition to this program. Its encouragement to academic researchers and practitioners alike to be more engaged and reflexive about the contemporary political and economic contexts within which they operate is a trajectory I wholly endorse. . . . Cosmopolitanism Archaeologies brings the past and the present together: calling for an engagement with the political, a sensitivity to the ethical and a reflexivity towards possible complicity; difficult, but essential questions all of us working in the arena of cultural heritage must continue to address.” — Tim Winter, Cambridge Archaeological Journal

Cosmopolitan Archaeologies challenges cherished assumptions about the practice of archaeology and the shaping and implications of interpretation. Drawing on recent work in the Americas, Australia, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the authors show how the past is understood in the present and how dispensations of power generate ethics of practice. Through closely argued exemplars, the contributors show how broad interpretations are shaped in the cauldron of the local, and how the global must be understood from within the framework of diverse communities. The result is a book that serves as a signpost for the front line of archaeological interpretation for the coming decade.” — Martin Hall, University of Salford

“Approaches to the ownership of archaeological remains range from smug neocolonial assertions of entitlement to bitter recriminations against even well-intentioned scholars for their alleged (and often real) elision of contemporary local societies. In this unedifying rogues’ gallery, a small but growing group of thoughtful exceptions stands out. Actively representative of the new and critically important trend, the authors of this highly original collection deploy a nuanced understanding of cosmopolitanism to challenge the old, easy assumptions and to suggest alternative, politically sensitized, and morally generous understandings. Theirs is an urgent call to accept the challenge of complexity, especially where cultural ethics are concerned. It is also a deeply serious call to rethink the place, indeed the value, of archaeology in a world where bigotry and violence still threaten the very future of humankind.” — Michael Herzfeld, author of Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lynn Meskell is Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. She is the author of Object Worlds in Ancient Egypt: Material Biographies Past and Present, Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt, and Archaeologies of Social Life: Age, Sex, Class Etcetera in Ancient Egypt. She is editor of Archaeologies of Materiality, Embedding Ethics (with Peter Pels), and The Companion to Social Archaeology (with Bob Preucel). Meskell is the founder and editor of the Journal of Social Archaeology.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction: Cosmopolitan Heritage Ethics / Lynn Meskell 1

1. Young and Free: The Australian Past in a Global Future / Jane Lydon 28

2. Strangers and Brothers? Heritage, Human Rights, and Cosmopolitan Archaeology in Oceania / Ian Lilley 48

3. Archaeology and the Fortress of Rationality / Denis Byrne 68

4. the Nature of Culture in Kruger National Park / Lynn Meskell 89

5. Vernacular Cosmopolitanism: An Archaeological Critique of Universalistic Reason / Alfredo González-Ruibal 113

6. The Archaeologist as a World Citizen: On the Morals of Heritage Preservation and Destruction / Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh 140

7. "Time's Wheel Runs Back": Conversations the the Middle Eastern Past / Sandra Arnold Scham 166

8. Mavili's Voice / Ian Hodder 184

9. "Walking Around Like They Own the Place": Quotidian Cosmopolitanism at a Maya and World Heritage Archaeological Site / Lisa Breglia 205

10. Translating Ecuadorian Modernities: Pre-Hispanic Archaeology and the Reproduction of Global Difference / O. Hugo Benavides 228

Bibliography 249

Contributors 285

Index 289
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4444-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4432-2
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