The Messy Business of Archaeology as Participatory Local Knowledge: A Conversation between the Stó:lō Nation and Knowle West

Angela A Piccini, Dave Schaepe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Archaeology becomes the discipline that it names through boundary-making practices that produce distinctions between peoples, things, places. These practices work to settle the past in the present and are increasingly critiqued for their ethnocentrism and concentrations of power out of the hands of the communities that archaeology claims to represent. In response to this critique, both academic and commercial archaeology have witnessed a recent turn to ‘community’. In this paper we discuss two case studies of community-involved archaeologies in order to assess whether archaeology can be transformed from a conventionally objective and detached practice that measures the messiness of lifeways into one that productively participates in the messy liveness and thrown-together connectedness of objects, peoples, histories and cultures. We look first at Stó:lō Nation, where archaeology is conceptualized within a Halq’eméylem context as an integrated practice linked by language to health, research, resource management, curation, repatriation and education in the context of contemporary aboriginal rights and title issues. We turn then to Knowle West, a suburban community in Bristol where archaeology is mobilized as a form of local knowledge concentrated around Knowle West Media Centre, which aims to link archaeology and heritage to contemporary issues of digital inclusion and capacity building. Though very different, both are examples where archaeological and descent communities are proximal and provide insight into how community-oriented archaeology practices are shifting the field of archaeology as practice. We conclude our paper by arguing that in both communities, the aim is to re-figure archaeology as a participatory practice that has the potential to transform the discipline from a method of institutional reproduction into a more radically indigenous set of knowledge practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-495
Number of pages30
JournalCanadian Journal of Archaeology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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