Tammy Stone 2014-01-09 01:52:30
Tammy Stone is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver. We archaeologists are intensely interested in the past, but we are not alone in this interest. Many groups are concerned with and have their own views and interpretations of the past and the meaning of history in current social and political situations. As such, an emphasis on the importance of addressing diverse interests in the archaeological past is recommended for undergraduate curriculum by the Society for American Archaeology (Bender 2000). I concentrate here on how we can talk to our students in freshman through senior level classes about the impact of our work on the descendants of the people we study and how we can engage these groups in the archaeological process. Background of the Concept In its 2000 statement on undergraduate curriculum content, the SAA stressed the importance of instilling in students a respect for other views and a recognition of the need to develop partnerships with stakeholder groups, especially descendant and local communities (Bender 2000; Watkins, Pyburn, and Cressey 2000). The active integration of these communities into archaeological projects occurs throughout the world, but is most common in Africa, Australia, and North America (see Murray 2011 for a review) in both prehistoric and historic archaeology. The development of these relationships is not a postmodern attempt to delegitimize a scientific approach to archaeology or any particular theoretical perspective. Rather, it reflects a recognition that the past is both contested and an important part of who we are as humans in general and as members of particular cultural groups— a recognition that is consistent with any of the major theoretical perspectives in archaeology today (e.g., processual, contextual, and political economy). The engagement of descendant/local groups is tied to an understanding that identity is both dynamic and historically contingent and that current interactions of these groups with their neighbors and broader political structures occur against the backdrop of a historical context of past relationships. As such, community members are not only interested in their past but also have an interest in the ownership and production of knowledge about their past and their ancestors. The past is tied to claims of rights, to place-making, to identity, and to the role of historical context in current relationships throughout the world (Murray 2011). Thus, archaeology is far from an irrelevant mental exercise, and the past is anything but a trivial consideration in today’s world. Rather, archaeology has important social implications for the communities in which we work. Our interaction with these communities is not a one-way street, however, in which only descendant/local groups benefit as they claim ownership of their past. Archaeologists also benefit, as descendant/local knowledge informs our research designs and aids in our interpretations, providing deeper and more nuanced understandings of the past. To instill in students an understanding of these diverse interest groups and to provide them with the skills needed to engage and interact with descendant/local groups in their careers, the SAA Task Force on Curriculum initially recommended that students in senior level classes be taught to create community ethnographies for the areas in which they conduct archaeological research to better understand the relevant stakeholders and their concerns, as well as how archaeological research benefits from this type of interaction (Watkins, Pyburn, and Cressey 2000). In the last two decades, however, there has been considerable scholarship in the area of college-level instruction and assessment (see Allen 2004 for a review), which suggests that this topic should be broached earlier in a student’s academic program. Specifically, pedagogical research recommends a shift in approach to college teaching from a teacher-centered philosophy (what do I want to cover) to a student-centered approach (what do I want them to learn and how do I ensure that they develop a deep understanding). Scholarship on stuDent-centered learning and assessment indicates that new ideas should be introduced early in students’ academic careers (in lower division classes) and then be reinforced, further developed, and put into practice in upper division classes to ensure a deep understanding of relevant issues. Additionally, given that students learn in a variety of different ways (some primarily through auditory presentations, others visually, and still other through active participation), a multimedia approach that presents the information in several different ways (traditional articles, web sources, videos, class discussions, and planning projects) is beneficial (Mayer 2002). Implementation in the Classroom To illustrate how the engagement of descendant/local groups as partners in archaeological research can be integrated into an undergraduate archaeological curriculum at both the lower and upper division, I reference a specific project, the New York African Burial Ground project in New York City. The New York African Burial Ground project fully integrated the local community in both the research design process and the interpretation of the site. Although this project is not unique, and similar activities are occurring in many places around the world, the community engagement undertaken by the New York African Burial Ground project is particularly well documented through traditional scholarly articles (Blakey 1998; LaRoche and Blakey 1997; Mack and Blakey 2004) , as well as through web sources sponsored by the National Park Service (www.nps.gov/afbg/index.htm). These sources can be incorporated into class presentations, discussions, and projects at a variety of levels. The class projects suggested here can be adapted to other instances of descendant/ local community engagement appropriate to other themes in a department’s undergraduate curriculum. In 1991, the United States General Services Administration began construction of a new office building in New York City and quickly encountered burials dated to the 1700s. Examination of historic maps identified the area as a cemetery for free and enslaved residents of African descent used from the 1690s through the 1790s. Both historians and local community members were aware of the existence of the cemetery, if not the exact location. The cemetery’s disturbance by construction and lack of consultation in the initial stages of mitigation of over 400 burials from the cemetery resulted in protest by the local community. By 1992, construction at the site was cancelled and moved to another location and archaeologists from Howard University stepped in to oversee research of the cemetery. A central part of the research design put forward by Howard University included active engagement with the local community, including the inclusion of research questions of interest to the local community (specifically, transitions of the 1700s community from African to African-American identities and modes of resistance in the face of slavery [see LaRoche and Blakey 1997 for an account of this process]). Community engagement continued as the cemetery was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and reinternment of the remains occurred in 2003. The site is now the location of the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City, administered by the National Park Service, and the associated web page includes video, social media links, research reports on the cemetery remains, cultural resource management plans, and interviews (text and video) with community members. As such, it provides an important resource for discussing issues of engagement with descendant/local communities. For students to gain a deep understanding of any complex issue, it needs to be introduced in lower division courses and then reinforced and expanded upon in upper division courses. In many universities, introductory classes are fairly large, with many non-majors taking the course to fulfill basic studies requirements. Due to the large size of these classes and the attempt to introduce students to an entire field of study in the span of a single quarter or semester, lecture formats often dominate. The activities implemented by the New York African Burial Ground archaeological project can be introduced even in these conditions by using the project as an example of how to engage descendant/local communities during lectures on both current theories in archaeology and research design. Further, video presentations in the multimedia section of the National Park Service web page can be used to spark small group discussions. Alternatively, students can be encouraged to participate in the twitter discussions in the social media section of the Landmark’s web page as a project outside of class. These projects and discussions can be structured through the use of specific questions similar to those contained in Table 1. Introductory classes at the lower division provide a survey of the field and are ideal for introducing these concepts. Upper division classes on method and theory, field schools, and classes specializing in the archaeology of a particular area are ideal places to explore these issues in greater detail. Information on the types of consultation undertaken by the New York African Burial Ground project (outlined in LaRoche and Blakely 1997), supplemented by videos on the National Park Service web page (www.nps.org/afbg/index.htm), provide a model for how engagement can occur in other areas. Specifically, LaRoche and Blakely (1997) provide details of interaction with social, political, and religious leaders in the preserVation of the site, the development of a community-based newsletter (Ground Truth) to keep the community informed and to request feedback from the public, visits of religious leaders to the lab where the materials were analyzed, and the inclusion of scholars from other fields (in this case, historians specializing in African ritual and symbols). Based on the lessons learned from the New York African Burial Ground project, students (in groups or individually) can be asked to develop research plans that identify descendant/local community interests and concerns, as well as mechanisms for contacting and engaging these groups and integrating their concerns and interests into the research and preservation of the cultural resource. Additionally, based on the model provided by the New York African Burial Ground project, a series of related student activities can be developed for other areas. The initial class assignment may be a proposal for community engagement. Specific issues addressed in the proposal may include the identification of relevant stakeholders and an action plan for how these stakeholders can be contacted. Additional questions for students to address concern the forum for interaction, the integration of stakeholders’ concerns into the excavation, interpretation, and the dissemination of information about project members’ activities. Secondary projects flowing from this proposal may include the construction of a newsletter about an ongoing project specifically directed to the descendant/local group (as opposed to scholarly missives written for other archaeologists) or the creation of videos of community members in which they tell their stories about the meaning of the site and express their concerns and ideas about how the project should be conducted (Table 2). By introducing lower division classes to the issue of diverse interests in the archaeological record and demonstrating how to engage descendant/local communities as partners in archaeological research, we emphasize to students (both majors and non-majors) the importance of these types of activities in the field of archaeology. By further exploring and reinforcing these ideas in upper division classes, we give students the opportunity both to gain a deeper understanding of These issues and to obtain skills they will need in their archaeological careers. References Cited Allen, Mary J. 2004 Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education. Anker Publishing, Bolton, MA. Bender, Susan J. 2000 A Proposal to Guide Curricular Reform for the Twenty- First Century. In Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Susan J. Bender and George S. Smith, pp. 29–48. Society for American Archaeology, Washington D. C. Blakey, Michael L 1998 The New York African Burial Ground Project: An Examination of Enslaved Lives, a Construction of Ancestral Ties. Transforming Anthropology 7:53–58. LaRoche, Cheryl J., and Michael L. Blakey 1997 Seizing Intellectual Power: The Dialogue at the New York African Burial Ground. Historical Archaeology 31:84–106. Mack, Mark E., and Michael l. Blakey 2004 The New York African Burial Ground Project: Past Biases, Current Dilemmas, and Future Research Opportunities. Historical Archaeology 38:10–17 Mayer, Richard E. 2002 Cognitive Theory and the Design of Multimedia Instruction: An Example of the Two-Way Street between Cognition and Instruction. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 89:55–71. Murray, Tim 2011 Archaeologists and Ingenious People: A Maturing Relationship? Annual Review of Anthropology 40:363–378. Watkins, Joe, K. Anne Pyburn, and Pam Cressey 2000 Community Relations: What the Practicing Archaeologist Needs to Know to Work Effectively with Local and/or Descendant Communities. In Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Susan J. Bender and George S. Smith, pp. 73–82. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 1. What groups do the local community members think should be engaged in partnership with archaeologists at the site? What can archaeologists and these groups learn from each other? (Remember, it is a two-way street.) 2. What recommendations do the community members have for ways to disseminate information about the New York African Burial Ground site to the broader public? 3. Who do the community members think should be targeted in outreach programs?
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