Most archaeology instructors are eager to have their students appreciate that the study of the past is relevant to the present. In fact, most current introductory textbooks include a section, however brief it may be, on the socio-politics of archaeology. These discussions are usually framed around how ideas about the past have been used to justify abuse (e.g., Nazi archaeology to support an Aryan homeland), or how the involvement of descendant communities in research is now considered best practice in the field (e.g., NAGPRA, community based archaeology). One of the most powerful tools for understanding how what we say about the past makes a difference in the present is discourse analysis. Ultimately, archaeologists communicate their findings via discourses: in reports, articles, books, museum exhibits, documentaries, podcasts, websites, and even occasionally fictional writings. Discourse analysis inspired by the work of Michel Foucault can be used to empower students to analyze and draw their own conclusions regarding the statements they encounter about “how the past was” and “what that means” in any context. It does not pre-determine or preclude any particular interpretation of the past-present relationship, or theoretical orientation, but instead supports the development of critical thinking with an eye to the power ramifications of “who says what.”
Van Gilder, Cynthia L.
2018 Say What?: Demystifying Discourse Analysis for Archaeology Students. Journal of Archaeology and Education 2
Available at: https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/jae/vol2/iss3/1