, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 481–495 | Cite as

Wedded to Privilege? Archaeology, Academic Capital, and Critical Public Engagement

  • Raphael GreenbergEmail author


Public and collaborative archaeological projects—many of them inspirational—have made headway in different parts of the world. But, as far as I can tell, they do not garner the same level of academic capital, or provide their practitioners with the same rewards, as other kinds of scientific or industrial collaboration. Moreover, in countries such as mine (Israel), where archaeology is imbricated in contestations of identity, historical narrative, and territorial claims, public archaeology projects are carefully co-opted by local or governmental institutions, so that any potentially disruptive impact may be contained, if not completely subverted. In what follows, I describe the current academic and extra-academic landscape and its implications for public engagement, commenting briefly on the possible ways forward, which require, I suggest, a patient commitment to a critical stance and a shift in the locus of archaeological desire—the driving passion of our discipline.

Key Words

Critical archaeology Israel/Palestine Neoliberalism Digwashing 


Les projets archéologiques publics et collaboratifs, dont beaucoup sont une source d’inspiration, ont fait de grands progrès dans différentes parties du monde. Il m’apparaît cependant qu’ils ne recueillent pas le même niveau de capital académique ni n’obtiennent les mêmes gratifications en faveur de leurs praticiens comme le font d’autres types de collaborations scientifiques ou industrielles. En outre, dans les pays comme le mien (Israël), où l’archéologie est imbriquée dans des contestations d’identité, un récit historique et des revendications territoriales, les projets archéologiques publics sont systématiquement récupérés par les institutions locales ou gouvernementales afin que tout impact susceptible de causer une perturbation puisse être contenu, sinon totalement neutralisé. Dans l’exposé suivant, je décris le paysage actuel universitaire et extra-universitaire et ses implications pour l’engagement public, en ajoutant quelques brefs commentaires sur les possibles voies à suivre, lesquelles imposent comme je le suggère, de s’investir patiemment en faveur d’un point de vue critique ainsi qu’un déplacement quant au lieu central du désir archéologique, la passion qui sous-tend notre discipline.


Los proyectos arqueológicos públicos y de colaboración, muchos de ellos inspiradores, han avanzado en diferentes partes del mundo. Pero, hasta donde me consta, no obtienen el mismo nivel de capital académico ni proporcionan a sus profesionales las mismas recompensas que otros tipos de colaboración científica o industrial. Además, en países como el mío (Israel), donde la arqueología está imbricada en disputas de identidad, narrativa histórica y reclamos territoriales, los proyectos públicos de arqueología son cuidadosamente cooptados por instituciones locales o gubernamentales, para que cualquier impacto potencialmente perjudicial pueda contenerse, a no ser que queda completamente subvertido. A continuación, describo el panorama académico y extra-académico actual y sus implicaciones para la participación pública, comentando brevemente los posibles caminos a seguir, que requieren, sugiero, un compromiso paciente con una postura crítica y un cambio en el enfoque del deseo arqueológico, que es la pasión impulsora de nuestra disciplina



My thanks to Bonnie Clark and Meredith Chesson for their invitation to join the SAA session in which this paper originated, to the session participants for their responses from the floor, and to Audrey Horning and Steve Silliman for their thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.


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Copyright information

© World Archaeological Congress 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern CulturesTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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