Theoretical challenges of indigenous archaeology: Setting an agenda

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Indigenous archaeology focuses on laudable processes of collaborative community research and decolonization. In contrast, theoretical contributions of Indigenous archaeology in terms of interpreting archaeological materials have been minimally articulated beyond praxis. Does Indigenous archaeology have an interpretative theoretical agenda? This paper addresses this question and articulates an agenda through distillation of theoretical developments and concerns from the considerable literature on Indigenous archaeology that has emerged from the Americas, Australia, and Africa over the past two decades. A shared fundamental concern is challenging ontological and epistemological divides and dualisms within mainstream Western archaeology. Two key dimensions of Indigenous archaeology are elaborated to provide broader scope to contextualize and address these theoretical challenges. First, encountering the past challenges objectivist tangibility of the archaeological record with ancestral presence and contexts where artifactual absence is the (in)tangible signature of spiritual association. Second, historicing the present challenges secularist archaeologies of a detached past with archaeologies of the more familiar ethnographically known recent past linked to identity and diachronic explorations of ontology and spiritualism. An agenda that embraces these theoretical challenges presents major opportunities for mainstream archaeology to reorient its Eurocentric focus and produce more cross-culturally relevant and culturally nuanced and sensitive understandings of the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-41
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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