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Wednesday, March 15 • 4:00pm - 5:40pm
Decolonising Digital Archaeology

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In a world where the daily destruction of heritage by the so-called Islamic State often makes international headlines, digital tools have emerged as a key way to record and reproduce the archaeological past. Satellite imagery is used to track the rate of destruction of archaeological sites. Three-dimensional data capture of objects and architecture by local populations, provided with 3D cameras or basic photogrammetry skills, helps us to create detailed models of heritage in conflict zones. New online data initiatives collect and disseminate information on areas currently off-limits to academics. Yet many of these digital initiatives are also unintentionally reinforcing some of the earlier colonial practices of archaeology’s long history. Data is held largely by elite and well-funded universities, often primarily for the benefit of western researchers; military technologies play a central role in surveillance or mapping of heritage sites and, by extension, local populations; reconstructed objects are presented overseas, outside of their original context and alongside similarly displaced antiquities. Although attempts to fight back against the destruction of global heritage are undoubtedly well intentioned an essential question remains—are these latest digital mechanisms for recording and preserving inadvertently reproducing a culture of collecting already discredited in broader archaeological practice? This session addresses the role of digital archaeology in heritage preservation from a postcolonial perspective. It invites contributions offering critical assessment of the latest digital initiatives and the oft-unspoken colonial undertones of the widespread use of digital technologies. The resulting discussion will serve both as a valuable opportunity to take stock of lessons learned from the many projects already underway, and as an early step toward establishing guidelines for best practices for digital responses to heritage at risk.

Wednesday March 15, 2017 4:00pm - 5:40pm EDT
SCE 218

Attendees (8)