Empty Gestures? Heritage and the Politics of Recognition

  • Laurajane Smith

The politics of identity cannot simply be dismissed as empty or abstract gesturing. The conflicts that occur around the rights to control the expression of cultural identity have important material consequences for struggles over economic resources and struggles for equity and human rights. This chapter examines the role that archaeologists, often unwittingly, play in the arbitration of identity politics and the consequences this has for both the discipline and, more specifically, Australian Indigenous communities. Drawing on a critical reading of Foucault’s later work on governmentality (Foucault 1979), this chapter provides a theoretical framework for understanding the conflicts that arise when archaeological knowledge and expertise about the material past intersects with the use of that past as indigenous heritage.


Cultural Heritage Cultural Knowledge Political Legitimacy Political Resource Heritage Management 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurajane Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyThe University of YorkUK

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