This roundtable brings together bioarchaeologists and other experts whose work concerns bioarchaeology and its practices to consider the arduous task of decolonizing the field. As a start, and given the theme of the 2021 AAA annual meeting (“Truth and Responsibility”), we ask what difficult truths still need to be revealed about bioarchaeology’s past and that of its sister fields, skeletal biology and forensic anthropology. We confront the structural, community, and individual violence bioarchaeology has perpetrated over its history, and we take responsibility for these acts. We recognize the inherent merit of calls for repatriation, redress, and restitution coming from multiple and heterogeneous archaeological collectives and descendant communities. While NAGPRA startled bioarchaeologists awake to their responsibilities to living peoples, the law has had uneven results, and the reckoning that it has led to in bioarchaeology remains insufficient and incomplete. Along with our responsibilities to the past, then, we also consider what bioarchaeologists can do to actively deconstruct bioarchaeology’s colonialist legacy as part of standard disciplinary practice today and in the future. Bioarchaeology’s insulation from multiple publics must come to an end. In that spirit, we recognize patterns of past and present knowledge production in bioarchaeology that have marginalized and excluded descendant communities and scholars of color. We also discuss pedagogical practices that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as modes of professional training and practice that destabilize the primacy of the academy. Finally, we consider disciplinary practices around skeletal collections, and imagine new ways for the field to approach the excavation, curation, analysis, interpretation, and disposition of peoples’ ancestors.
Next from AAA Annual Meeting 2021
Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology & Computing (CASTAC) Invited Lecture with Dr Tamar Shirinian: "A Politics without Authenticity: Thinking through the Pitfalls and Potentialities of ‘Fake’ in Armenia"
AAA Annual Meeting 2021
18 November 2021