AIA-2H: Archaeology and Contemporary Displacement: A Mediterranean Perspective (Presidential Plenary Workshop)

  Hybrid   AIA Session   Workshop


Elizabeth Greene, Brock University


Salam Al Kuntar, Rutgers University; Yannis Hamilakis, Brown University; Tomothy Harrison, Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, University of Chicago; Kostis Kourelis, Franklin & Marshall College; Ay?e ?anli, Brown University; and Alaka Wali, Field Museum of Chicago


According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 108 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide in 2022 due to conflict, famine, natural disaster, and climatic events. Archaeology has long been invested in the study of displacement, the impacts of such movement on communities in transit, the various networks that sustained them, and the landscapes left behind. Displacement surrounds Mediterranean archaeology in yet another way; the discipline has historically provided a pretext for whisking objects away to distant collections, stripping layered pasts of living sites to curate pristine monuments, and removing people from land in the name of scientific research. Such entanglement is evident in the trajectory of archaeological practice in Mediterranean regions that long prioritized colonialist and nationalist celebrations that distanced past from present.

Responding to these histories, this workshop takes up Randall McGuire’s recent call for archaeologists to use our privilege and access to support displaced people in achieving social justice. We consider how archaeology can acknowledge past practice, chart new and inclusive paths in the study of mobility, and provide supportive frameworks for those affected by contemporary displacement. Engaging with the Annual Meeting’s theme of “Movement, Mobility, and Displacement,” workshop panelists will share their experiences with archaeology and displacement and consider related questions: How can historical movements contribute to understanding contemporary phenomena, and What is the ethical responsibility of archaeologists regarding discourses on migration history? How can comparative research on displacement, removal, and associated webs of actors, agents, and materialities inform theoretical and practical approaches in the Mediterranean? How can archaeology offer a tool for support, care, and therapeutic practice for affected communities, as well as a remedy for the dehistoricization of uprooted peoples? How can archaeology provide a space for teaching about such critical contemporary issues in Mediterranean lands?

Following brief explanations of ongoing work, panelists will engage in participatory discussion with an eye toward generating a series of frameworks through which Mediterranean archaeologists might actively engage with contemporary public dialogs on displacement. These include:

Raising awareness through archaeological research on displacement that considers time depth and breadth, ground-level data on individual and collective experiences, and multivocality;

Considering best practices for Mediterranean archaeology that reflect on global inequalities surrounding displacement, and bring visibility to displaced communities through active engagement and support;

Creating frameworks for the intersection of public policy with humanistic and archaeologically based research about displacement.