Could archaeologists benefit contemporary cultures and be a factor in solving world problems? Can archaeologists help individuals? Can archaeologists change the world? These questions form the root of “archaeology activism” or “activist archaeology”: using archaeology to advocate for and affect change in contemporary communities.
Archaeologists currently change the world through the products of their archaeological research that contribute to our collective historical and cultural knowledge. Their work helps to shape and reshape our perceptions of the past and our understanding of written history. Archaeologists affect contemporary communities through the consequences of their work as they become embroiled in controversies over negotiating the past and the present with native peoples. Beyond the obvious economic contributions to local communities caused by heritage tourism established on the research of archaeologists at cultural sites, archaeologists have begun to use the process of their work as a means to benefit the public and even advocate for communities.
In this volume, Stottman and his colleagues examine the various ways in which archaeologists can and do use their research to forge a partnership with the past and guide the ongoing dialogue between the archaeological record and the various contemporary stakeholders. They draw inspiration and guidance
from applied anthropology, social history, public history, heritage studies, museum studies, historic preservation, philosophy, and education to develop an activist approach to archaeology—theoretically, methodologically, and ethically.
M. Jay Stottman is a staff archaeologist with the Kentucky Archaeological Survey at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.