Heritage Management as Postprocessual Archaeology?

By Smith, Laurajane | Antiquity, June 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Heritage Management as Postprocessual Archaeology?


Smith, Laurajane, Antiquity


The postmodern, or 'postprocessual', tendency in contemporary archaeology pays much attention in its rhetoric to that wider public, that wider constituency whose views of the past may not match much or at all with the academics. What happens when the realities of archaeology in the real world meet with those of postmodern theory?

This paper examines the relationship, or lack of one, between the body of theory labelled 'postprocessual archaeology' and the practice of heritage management. Postprocessual archaeological theory explicitly claims to have politicized archaeology; conversely, heritage management remains largely untheorized, yet is the form of archaeological practice which most directly engages with politics.

Many of the theoretical discussions developed within postprocessual writings have been played out within the arena of heritage management. Encounters by archaeologists working as heritage managers with indigenous peoples, land developers, local communities and other interest groups with views of the past different to that of archaeologists, have left many managers with a real, if not a theoretically informed, understanding of the political nature of archaeology. Further, the dynamics of cultural, social and historical identity confronts any manager of material culture daily, although considerations of the politics of identity have only recently been examined by postprocessual writers (e.g. Shennan 1989; Hodder 1992; Leone & Preucel 1992; Shanks 1992).

Does postprocessual theory successfully break with the arid scientism of processual archaeology, and provide an adequate account of the social, cultural and political context of archaeology? Is it up to explaining the politics of heritage? Or to explaining what it is archaeology does? One of the main things that archaeology does is heritage management. The academy educates heritage managers, heritage management is a main employment area for archaeologists, and archaeological research changes the values attributed to heritage sites. Yet archaeological theory falls short in addressing heritage management and how archaeological knowledge is used within the management process.

The discussion will concentrate on three issues:

* the political and cultural role played by archaeologists as intellectuals;

* the degree to which archaeological knowledge and ideology has been both institutionalized and constrained within state institutions and discourses; and

* the role heritage plays in the politically fraught process of the construction of cultural identity.

The definition of heritage management used in this paper challenges common assumptions that heritage management is simply an exercise of technical judgements and strategies of preservation. For a wider discussion of this definition see Smith (in press a).

Postprocessual theoreticians, when discussing heritage issues and politics, tend to find themselves, along with heritage managers, trapped within a discursive introspective loop. Within this loop heritage issues about the legitimacy of indigenous and other claims made on material culture are channelled into a discussion of archaeological rights of access to the data or 'resource'. Ironically, this situation rehearses many of the old claims of scientistic privileged access to material culture pursued by processual archaeologists.

In concrete terms, little progress has been made towards entering into a so-called 'politically democratic discourse' with non-archaeological interests. These interests are seldom identified in postprocessual writings, and the hard questions about what might constitute a progressive political practice for archaeologists are not addressed. Indeed, postprocessual theory tends to be written about archaeologists writing about archaeologists writing about archaeologists . . . with little engagement with concrete, practical problems posed within heritage management, and problematized by the political complexity of the role heritage plays in the formation of cultural identity.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Heritage Management as Postprocessual Archaeology?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?