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Y. Hamilakis and A. Anagnostopoulos, eds. Archaeological Ethnographies.

Public Archaeology
8.2-3. Cambridge: Maney Publishing, 2009, 322 pp, illus., pbk, ISBN: 978-1-906540-73-9.
Archaeological Ethnographies is a special volume of the journal Public Archaeology edited by
Yannis Hamilakis and Aris Anagnostopoulos. The papers in this collection derived from a
workshop on the island of Poros in the summer of 2008. The 13 papers, plus introduction and
concluding remarks, bring together scholars working in Greece with those who work elsewhere
in the world to discuss recent developments in the practice of archaeological ethnography. The
editors describe the transdisciplinary or even post-disciplinary practice of archaeological
ethnography to include a range of research at the intersection of archaeological practice, and
methods and theories derived from ethnography and cultural anthropology. Introducing
ethnographic practices into an archaeological context serves to create a space of engagement
between archaeological field work and its immediate social context. To do this, the editors
embraced many of the theoretical watch-words common to post-modern and post-processural
archaeology of the last two decades. To Hamilakis and Anagnostopoulos, archaeological
ethnography represents critical scholarship that is “reflexive”, “multi-temporal”, “multi-sited”,
“politically sensitive”, and “sensuous”.

The individual contributions reveal how scholars sought to achieve these diverse goals and
actualize the various methods implicit in the transdisciplinary (or post-disciplinary) position of
archaeological ethnography. The result is diverse collection of articles that represents a
homology for the polyvocal environment that ethnographic methods seek to cultivate in an
archaeological context. In general, the non-Greek examples in the collection emphasized more
methodologically sophisticated and theoretically mature approaches than those from a Greek
context. Hollowell and Nicholas, for example, explored the use of “participatory action
research” (PAR) to articulate distinct archaeological and cultural resource management concerns
among a First Nations group in British Columbia, the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands,
and the Saginaw Cippewa; K. Anne Pyburn explored comparable methods in her efforts to
cultivate an archaeological consciousness among groups in Kyrgystan. Castañeda employed
similarly participatory efforts to encourage the residents of a Mayan community in Mexico to
engage with the ethnography of their own past. He brought together the records of an
archaeological and ethnographical expedition in the first part of the 20th century with the 21st
century descendants of this same community. Michael Herzfeld’s sweeping article on time,
tempo, and rhythm was among the few articles that explicitly bridged the gap between
Mediterraneanist perspective and those offered by scholars focused elsewhere, and he did so by
problematizing the link between social relationships, modes of production, and time among
residents of historic sites in Greece, Rome, and Thailand. While Herzfeld’s article preserves an
implicit critique of modernist archaeological practices, other archaeologists embraced
ethnographic practice in a more transparent way as the continuation of recent trends toward a
more reflexive archaeology. Marchall, Roseneil, and Armstrong, reflect on their experiences
initiating a project to document archaeologically at the remains of the Greenham Common
Women’s Peace Camps.

By separating in this review the articles by scholars who dealt primarily with Greece from those
who offered perspectives rooted in World Archaeology, I have undermined a goal of the editors
who organized the articles to alternate between the perspectives offered by both groups. Despite
this implicit goal, the juxtaposition of these two perspectives belies the different vocabularies,
intellectual traditions, and conditions of work. Many of the World archaeologists represented in
this volume worked in places and on sites where they encountered radically alienated groups
who sought to assert control over the archaeological remains in order to secure political authority
in the present. For example, Colwell-Chanthaphonh’s study of the term Anasazi among the
Native Americans in the southwest showed how the vocabulary describing past cultures is
capable of alienating and disenfranchising in the present. In Greece, the social relationship
between archaeologists and local residents is often more subtle and less visibly contested
especially when the archaeologists themselves are Greek. This is in part because the tireless
promotion of a singular national identity among all Greeks saturates archaeological remains with
patriotic significance. Articles by Stroulia and Sutton, Forbes, and Deltsou show, the persistent
din of national message often serves merely to obscure a landscape rich in conflicts, dissent, and
diversity on the local level. Ethnographic practices hold forth the potential to capture such
dissonant attitudes toward archaeological sites and the relationship between local communities
and the archaeologists who work in them. Sutton and Stroulia argue, for example, that the site of
the Temple of Zeus at Nemea despite its presence on the informed tourists’ itinerary has little
meaning to the residents of the Nemea Valley today. Forbes reveals that Arvanites farmers on
the Methana Peninsula find little in Classical antiquity to celebrate and associate the past mainly
with hardships. At the site of ancient Sikyon in the village of Vasiliko, Deltsou demonstrates
how official archaeological policy differed from local attitudes toward the site leading to the loss
of local interest in the site. Antoniadou’s article revealed a similar pattern of frustration and
alienation as it problematized the difficulties of using ethnographic techniques to document so-
called looting practices Near Kozani in Macedonia. Her efforts explore the tension between, on
the one hand, official expectations and the law, and, on the other hand, a wide array of
indigenous archaeological practices that have been generally classified as looting, criminalized
or subjected to official ethical censure. Hamilakis and Anagnostopoulos demonstrated from their
experiences at the sanctuary of Kalaureia that the lines between archaeologist, local resident, and
ethnographer can produce shifting hybrid identities and resist easy recourse to essential
categories or positions.

As one would expect, the value of the contributions to this volume are less in the specifics
knowledge that they create and more in the proof that archaeological ethnography can contribute
to a more intellectually and politically aware approach to the material remains of the past. The
articles in this collection show that a transdisciplinary approach can effectively cross barriers
between social groups, articulate alternative histories, undermine lingering colonial or even racist
perspectives inherent in academic practice, and problematize archaeology’s epistemological
roots in modernity. At the same time, most of the case studies presented in this volume situate
the archaeologist or ethnographer in a position of power in relation to the local resident. This
positions ethnography as a strategy to bridges the gap between the authority rooted in modernist
archaeological practice and local methods of imparting meaning in past material culture. By
foregrounding this relationship between empowered outsider and marginalized local, these case
studies overlook other common relationships that inform the archaeological process. In Greece,
for example, the relationship between the foreign archaeologist and the Greek state or the
archaeologist and the myriad mediating institutions (foreign schools, academic institutions,
disciplinary bodies, discursive practices) exert a powerful influence over the archaeological
practice and the creation of archaeological knowledge (for more on this see: Loukaki 2008). In
many of these cases, the archaeologist is the subordinate member in the discursive dyads.
Understanding how ethnography can inform these relationships and the power structures that
they maintain is just as important, and politically fraught, as creating space for open dialogue
between academic archaeological practice and indigenous attitudes.
Despite this oversight, this collection of paper represents a significant contribution to the
ongoing effort to redefine the practice of Greek archaeology. By building in the
transdisciplinary space of ethnography and archaeology as well as the comparative perspectives
of World archaeology, Hamilakis and Anagnostopoulos reveals both the potential of cross
disciplinary dialogues and the unique potential of archaeological work in Greece.


LOUKAKI, A., 2008. Living Ruins, Value Conflicts. Aldershot, UK/Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

William R. Caraher
Assistant Professor
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND USA