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After ModernityArchaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past$
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Rodney Harrison and John Schofield

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199548071

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199548071.001.0001

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A Disciplinary (Pre)History

A Disciplinary (Pre)History

Chapter:
2 A Disciplinary (Pre)History
Source:
After Modernity
Author(s):

Rodney Harrison

John Schofield

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199548071.003.0007

Following the brief definition and discussion of the archaeology of the contemporary past provided in Chapter 1, this chapter will consider the academic context for the development of the archaeology of the contemporary past and its emergence in the years surrounding the Millennium. It then briefly surveys and summarizes the topics which have emerged as areas of focus amongst archaeologists working in the field over the past decade. It will chart the important role of commercial archaeology and developer funding in the emergence of the archaeology of the contemporary past, and look at the role of national heritage agencies and local authorities. Another major issue in this chapter is the ways in which the archaeology of the recent and contemporary past has developed as a means of addressing cultural diversity and recent migrant communities and their heritage, which is inevitably and by definition ‘contemporary’ albeit often with reference to other times and places. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the relationship between historical archaeology and the archaeology of the contemporary past, considering claims for and against seeing it as a discipline in its own right. It is now a decade since the publication of two key books which have been central to the establishment of the archaeology of the contem-porary past as a specific area of study within the English speaking world—Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture edited by Paul Graves-Brown (2000b), and Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past edited by Victor Buchli and Gavin Lucas (2001e). As Buchli (2007: 115) points out however, archaeologists have had a long interest in studying contemporary material culture, dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and including Pitt-Rivers’s studies of contemporary rifles while working as a military officer, and Kroeber’s (1919) study of changes in contemporary women’s dress lengths. Nonetheless, throughout most of the twentieth century, archaeology has concerned itself almost exclusively with the study of the distant past, accepting a conservative and literal definition of archaeology as something that should focus only on that which is ancient, or ‘archaic’.

Keywords:   Area, Bunkers, Cold War, Developer funding, Eindhoven Statement, First World War, Gallipoli, Heritage, ICOMOS, Kalahari

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