Decolonizing approaches in archaeology emerged as a means to counter the dominance of colonial ideologies and improve the accuracy of Indigenous representations

Decolonizing approaches in archaeology emerged as a means to counter the dominance of colonial ideologies and improve the accuracy of Indigenous representations. Historically, the routines of mainstream archaeological practice have been shaped by Western (primarily elite Euro-American) beliefs and categories. Although Indigenous people have long been used as informants, Western scientists have exerted control over Indigenous property, and Indigenous knowledges and concerns have been pushed to the margins. Decolonizing has both political and practical effects; it alters power relations among scientists and subjects, while also expanding the volume and accuracy of available Indigenous data.

Decolonizing archaeologists seek to untangle colonial influences by encouraging greater collaboration with Indigenous peoples, reconsidering foundational knowledges, and paying closer attention to the ethics of handling other peoples’ heritage. Decolonizing approaches are explicitly intended to recover materials and knowledges that were lost or made invisible during generations of living under colonial domination. In political contexts, decolonizing efforts have enabled formerly dependent or colonized Indigenous peoples, ethnic communities, and small nations gain independence and local control. In archaeological contexts, decolonizing similarly shifts the power balance by liberating collections and interpretations from the presumed exclusivity of colonial control. This is accomplished, in part, by encouraging better collaborations with communities impacted by colonization. Key strategies for decolonizing include: critical analysis of social and political relations; collaborative consultation and research design; reclamation of cultural property; restoration of cultural landscapes and heritage sites; repatriation of human remains; co-curation of archaeological collections; and devising more culturally accurate museum representations. For examples of decolonizing projects and practitioners in different regions of the world.

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