3. Trans- and Metadisciplinary Approaches in Archaeology 

How does archaeology engage societal groups in the definition of research questions? Should it involve society more in the selection and development of research methods, even in research and publication itself? How does academic archaeology relate to public or citizen science or to art and artists? 

The relationship between science, academia and society has changed fundamentally in the last decades: scientific results and especially their interpretation by experts are not anymore taken as a matter of fact and valued highly. In some domains science is being contested by powerful social or political groups as for example in the discussions on childhood vaccination or on the anthropogenic character of climate change. In most European countries academia finds itself –on a national and on a European level - under pressure from politics, society and funding authorities to redirect its research to the grand societal challenges. EU’s Horizon 2020 programme and the Dutch National Research Agenda being examples on both organizational levels. Researchers do react in fundamentally different ways: some see academic freedom at stake and are raising protest, others opportunistically profit from the new research funds. More interesting, some recent research initiatives can be characterised as trans- or metadisciplinary, because they involve both academics and public and private ‘stakeholders’ at all research stages.


Archaeology is no exception to the development described above. In the post war decennia archaeology was a small scale discipline dominated by academics; from the 1970s to the 1990s this has changed fundamentally. The causes are multifaceted: the total amount of leisure time has grown significantly, especially among the growing number of retired citizens. In addition, the level of education throughout society has risen spectacularly. Expanding budgets for archaeology research – one of the outcomes of the implementation of the Valletta Convention – did put more stress on its societal valorisation. Responses within archaeology do vary significantly: some archaeologists just offer more output for the general public, others go beyond that and try to involve local stakeholders and social volunteers in the definition of research questions, the selection and development of research methods and research and publication itself. In some cases artists play a role in crossing the divide between science and society.


As customary, session and subsequent paper proposals to this theme are invited to reflect on theoretical and methodological perspectives in archaeology, but papers on societal challenges posed to archaeology are especially welcome. Participants are asked to present transdisciplinary projects and to discuss their success and drawbacks. What is the role of citizen science and how does scientific archaeology relate to amateur archaeology, including metal-detecting and pseudo-archaeology? What kind of education for archaeologists and archaeological education for fellow citizens requires trans- and metadisciplinary approaches? This theme also invites to present projects in which archaeologists and artists co-operate and co-create.

Welcome at the 23rd Annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists

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