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Indigenous Archaeologies: Decolonizing Theory and Practice.

Indigenous Archaeologies: Decolonizing Theory and Practice Edited by Claire Smith and H, Martin Wobst. One World Archaeology 47. London and New York: Routledge. 2005. Pp: xxii+408. Price: $281.00 incl GST.

Taking for its starting point the recognition that Indigenous archaeology is an inherently colonialist practice, this volume and its many authors sets itself the task of 'de-colonising' the theory and practice of Indigenous archaeology. The 21 chapters in the volume draw on case studies from Australia, Canada, South Africa and North America to demonstrate some of the ways in which the increased involvement and recognition of the rights of Indigenous people in archaeology is changing archaeological theory and practice in the twenty first century. In doing so, papers touch on issues traditionally thought to be far from the concern of archaeologists whose role it was to study 'dead' cultures, such as social justice and human rights, which arise from the increased engagements of archaeologists with the lifeworlds of the living ancestors of their objects of study.

The book claims to be the first on Indigenous archaeology to include more papers by Indigenous than non-Indigenous authors. Many of the papers by Indigenous archaeologists discuss quite frankly and personally what it means to be both an Indigenous person and an archaeologist, while other papers coauthored by non-Indigenous archaeologists and Indigenous people tackle issues of similarities and differences in ways of knowing the past. These papers are honest and reflect on issues of the ethics of archaeological practice in a way which may not have seemed possible to Australian or North American archaeologists 10 or 20 years ago when the discipline was still caught up in the aftermath of processual power struggles which emphasised the science of archaeology as the ultimate authority over the past. In this sense the book offers something truly original and refreshing to its readers.

Unlike much that has been published on community archaeology in Australia and North America, this book works both at the level of addressing the specifics of individual case studies, as well as developing more general principles that could be applied to Indigenous archaeologies throughout the New World. While many of the case studies demonstrate the importance of locally specific solutions and relationships between Indigenous people and archaeologists, the papers draw out generalisations regarding the ethics of archaeological practice and the ways in which engagements between Indigenous peoples and archaeologists will change archaeological practice which are important in making this book of broad potential interest to a range of readers. While some papers (like those in an earlier volume in this series edited by Layton) discuss conflicts between archaeologists and living traditions, in many cases the authors also point out the ways in which collaboration between archaeologists and Indigenous people has led to new, shared solutions and innovations in both the ways of viewing and studying the past.

The book is attractively illustrated with many black and white plates, and is pleasingly designed and edited. The book uses poems and other forms of creative writing between (and in some cases as part of) the more traditional academic book chapters to effectively connect with some of the more embodied reactions of both Indigenous people and archaeologists to the pasts with which they respectively engage, or to imaginatively sketch that past itself. While the volume provides an interesting and up to date "global' comparative on issues of community archaeology and social justice, the price tag may be prohibitive for students and all but the most interested scholars. This is unfortunate, as it provides a real 'snapshot' of the ways in which engagements between Indigenous people and archaeologists; and, indeed, the ways in which Indigenous archaeologists themselves, are making radical changes to the discipline of archaeology.

Rodney Harrison

The Australian National University
COPYRIGHT 2005 University of Sydney
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Harrison, Rodney
Publication:Oceania
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:626
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