The Indian Express reports that according to Dr. Gautam Sengupta, director general of the Archaeological Survey of India, “it is time for us to rethink our own ideas and concepts of archaeological analysis in order to combat the worldwide crisis in the discipline”. Disturbing words from a very powerful archaeologist! What’s going on!?
Though woefully ignorant of Indian archaeology, I have a reasonable grasp of Western European and US archaeology, and I believe I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in Scandinavia. And I have seen no sign of any worldwide crisis. Particularly not one that might be effectively mitigated by practitioners “rethinking their ideas and concepts of analysis”. What has Dr. Sengupta discovered?
The Indian Express quotes from a speech given yesterday by Sengupta at a graduation ceremony at the Deccan College in Pune. But though we are told that there is a problem, we do not learn specifically what the problem is, only a little about what Sengupta believes should be done to solve it.
“…archeology needs to reinvent itself. This is just the beginning and there is still a long way to go. This is the beginning to a more critical, interpretive, self-reflexive and holistic archaeology which wishes to understand the various dimensions of human behaviour in the past and the present.”
Critical, interpretive, self-reflexive and holistic. This, Dear Reader, is a clutch of outdated buzzwords from UK theoretical archaeology. The words are badges that used to identify the theoretically hip in about 1997, when Ian Hodder used them to market a new kind of fieldwork methodology that turned out not to be so new after all.
So, unless there was a lot more to Dr. Sengupta’s speech, I would like to take this opportunity to reassure any worried recent archaeology graduates of the Deccan College. There is no worldwide crisis in archaeology. The discipline does not need to reinvent itself. This is not the beginning and there is not a longer way to go than there was before. You need not strive for a more critical, interpretive, self-reflexive or holistic archaeology, as this has been tried and did not lead anywhere. As for understanding the various dimensions of human behaviour in the past and the present, that is just business as usual. Surely most of the graduates listening to the director general’s speech were completely aware of this.
Via History Hunters.