Lecture 4 The Political Lives of the Dead

Lecture 4 The Political Lives of the Dead - The Political...

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The Political Lives of Dead Bodies “They (dead bodies) help us to see political transformation as something more than a technical process—of introducing democratic procedures and methods of electioneering, of forming political parties and nongovernmental organizations, and so on. The "something more" includes meanings, feelings, the sacred, ideas of morality, the nonrational… Katherine Verdery (2003) Because it involves the dead, the past has similar political and emotional dimensions The past can be owned, appropriated, misused, and manipulated This is why archaeologists are concerned with ethics Our interpretations also can be owned, appropriated, misused, and manipulated and we can make interpretations that hurt others spiritually, politically, and economically Lets examine this concept a little further. . Does the Past Exist? Can you smell it? Can you taste it? Can you kick it? Can you hear it? Can you touch it? Herein lies the mystery and the danger of archaeology….
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Does the Past Exist? We reconstruct the past We make inferences about the past We “encounter” the past The past exists (almost completely) in our imaginations Our understanding of the past is constantly changing as we learn more and as we develop new perceptions and technologies to view the archaeological record. For this reason the past can be manipulated to fit our current needs and motivations So, as archaeologists, can we really say anything truthful about the past? Some say “yes”. Through the scientific method we can infer what the past was like Some say “no”. The past is always a construction of the contemporary world Archaeological objects have a dual reality. They were made in the past but are part of the contemporary world. They do not carry self-evident meanings. Still others say that there are many pasts and that some truths are more evident than others Data: Counts, Measurements, and Observations There can be no archaeological data until an archaeologist observes them. Question is: “why these observations and not others?” Low Level Theory helps us to decide Concerned with generating facts or data about objects Emerges from hands-on archaeological experience (tend to be reliable) Technological advances cause us to rethink this question over and over again We rely on evidence to establish what we know. From our evidence we make inferences about the past, and yes, some truths are more evident than others (depending upon the nature of our observations). NOT POLITICAL What is a kiva?
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Lecture 4 The Political Lives of the Dead - The Political...

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