Workshop : Asia-Pacific Indigenous Archaeology: Emergence and Perspectives

Organisé par
Bérénice Bellina (CNRS-UMR8068 TEMPS) & Frank Muyard (EFEO)
co-financé par le GIS Asie
25 avr. 2024
Paris, INHA, salle Vasari

Indigenous Archaeology is a field of archaeology focused on the involvement of indigenous peoples and communities and the integration of their interests and perspectives into the discipline, both practically and theoretically, in order to make it more representative, accountable, and relevant. It also aims to inform and broaden the understandings and interpretations of the archaeological record by taking into account indigenous knowledge systems, history, and science (Nicholas 2008: 1660). Since its appearance in the literature in the early 2000s, Indigenous archaeology has spread around the world. Spurred by the first archaeological projects conducted in collaboration with Amerindian and Inuit researchers in the 1970s, it has benefited from the theoretical and methodological contributions of "public archaeology". While first emerging as a field in the North American, Australian, and New Zealand contexts, it has undergone a varied evolution depending on the regions where archaeologists, indigenous researchers, and activists have attempted to build new relationships to pursue the study of indigenous peoples' history. In addition to recognizing the persistence of the colonial power structures that the indigenous peoples of many countries still live within, these changes in archaeological practice must also be seen in the context of broader societal developments. These include the emergence in civil society of a desire to participate more directly and actively in political life (participatory democracy), or in the co-construction with scientists of knowledge that can be mobilized to change a situation (historical, environmental, etc.). In these cases, indigenous and community archaeology is linked to participatory science and action research, which are enjoying a remarkable development in the humanities and social sciences. Indigenous archaeology is thus diverse and reflects the historical context and sponsors of the research. 

But what does it mean to be indigenous? The concept of indigeneity is not unequivocal, and is not necessarily defined in opposition to Western colonization. It varies according to historical situations. Similarly, indigenous archaeology covers a multiplicity of practices. 

In this workshop, indigenous and community archaeology is understood as archaeology concerning peoples or communities under the structural and political domination of a colonial state or a majority group. How can archaeologists collaborate with these peoples and communities to foster new knowledge about their past? Though co-constructing knowledge with indigenous groups is one of the primary objectives of such research, insuring their participation and the integration of their knowledge is not always easy. The social place historically assigned to these peoples and communities in today's societies does not always favor their participation. How can archaeologists build new types of cooperative frameworks in these situations, and to what extent does the research, which claims to be participatory, not lead to new forms of domination when it is not carried out by the indigenous communities themselves? Furthermore, should indigenous archaeology be carried out solely by indigenous peoples, eventually artificially isolating them as an object of study? Is it scientifically justifiable to exclude other groups with which they interact and construct themselves through cooperation or opposition? Indigenous archaeology articulates a variety of social, ethnic, historical, and geographical registers, and is therefore necessarily multidisciplinary. Articulating these registers is not without its scientific and ethical challenges. They imply a necessary reflexivity in the researcher's practices, as well as the need for epistemological reflection and the use, or even the elaboration, of specific methodologies.

Indigenous archaeology has not developed at the same speed in the different regions of the world: practiced earlier in North America and Oceania, it is emerging more recently in Taiwan and Thailand. It takes different forms according to the local history, archaeological traditions, and sponsors involved. In this workshop, the speakers will compile a picture of the state of Indigenous archaeological research in several countries of the vast Asia and Pacific area, highlighting how historical, ethnic, and scientific specificities have shaped the approaches that have been developed. What difficulties have been encountered, and what concepts and methods have been developed? How has this approach enriched or contributed to the archaeological project carried out? What are the societal, economic and environmental implications? The papers will also outline future developments in Indigenous archaeology and highlight methods that could be further developed.