Archaeologist Alejandra Korstanje untangles the complex history of colonization and indigenous communities in Argentina.
In recent years, practitioners of archaeology — the study of not only material culture but more importantly, people in the past — have begun to accept that the discipline is based on and generally reflects the values of Western cultures. In the Americas, in particular, prior to European colonization communities were able to act as stewards over their own cultural resources and history — examining, remembering, teaching, learning, and protecting their own heritage. Following colonization, wealthy elites began to exercise their curiosity over the materials beneath their feet in the “New World,” engaging in a practice known as antiquarianism that later evolved into what we recognize today as modern archaeology. As cultural and historical stewards, archaeologists are now attempting to de-colonize the practice by pursuing ethically and socially just ways of conducting research and encouraging collaboration with indigenous peoples and those who have traditionally been considered “others.”