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Nick Shepherd

Contract Archaeology in South Africa: Traveling Theory, Local Memory and Global Designs

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This paper examines the historical development of contract archaeology in South Africa, placing it in a trajectory of local archaeological thought and practice. In doing so, it sets out to do three things. The first is to consider how metropolitan theory "travels," takes root, and has particular, local effects as part of a disciplinary ordering of knowledge and practice. In South Africa, the advent of contract archaeology around the time of the 1994 elections was ironic in the sense that it foreclosed on the notion of a "people's archaeology," replacing it with forms of corporate accountability and models of business best practice. The second broad aim is to think about what is at stake in the politics of memory after apartheid, and the effects of contract archaeology in mediating and mitigating popular struggles around rights, resources and representation. I argue that, in many cases, the function of contract archaeology is to discipline and school such struggles, diverting them along approved tracks and bureaucratic channels. The third is to think about how contract archaeology functions as part of global coloniality, as an instigator and enabler of global designs. I briefly discuss the case of the World Archaeological Congress and Rio Tinto, as an example of the co-opting of a global organization and of a language of engagement. My argument throughout is that contract archaeology recapitulates the essential coloniality of disciplinary archaeology, presenting it with a new face and a contemporary disguise appropriate to global, postcolonial times.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology
Sider (fra-til)748-763
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2015

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