Jodi A. Barnes, GMAC Chair
During the forum, "Where Do We Go from Here?: Gender and Minority Affairs at the Crossroads," at the 2011 SHA meetings in Austin, Texas, Jenna Coplin posed the question, "Why do we seek diversity?" The answer to this question seems simple. There are at least two ways to look at it. We seek diversity so that the membership of SHA mirrors that of the population in general. Or, we seek diversity as a step toward social justice, toward creating an antiracist, nonsexist, equal organization. The two responses, of course, are not mutually exclusive. A diverse SHA is only possible if we address the structural issues - unequal access to education, health care, transportation, childcare, etc. - that continue to maintain SHA's membership and officers as white, male, heterosexual, and middle class. This mission of seeking diversity involves all historical archaeologists and should be on our collective radars as we work to make historical archaeology more socially relevant.
The Gender and Minority Affairs Committee (GMAC) was founded to address equity issues for women and to ensure that issues relevant to women and minorities are given due consideration in SHA. Yet despite the increase of women in the field, many inequities persistently remain. Rita Wright (2002: 19) argues that numerous studies and tracking of trends over a number of years have shown that women archaeologists continue to earn less than men, are employed in substantially greater proportions in part-time positions, and are more likely to be in the lower ranks of academic institutions. According to the 2005 SAA and SHA Salary Survey, with few exceptions, a gendered disparity in salary exists regardless of the primary employer (e.g., university, CRM firm, federal or state government, private nonprofit, museum). On average, women make substantially less than men do, $46,786 to $53,210 respectively (Geller 2009: 74; SAA and SHA Salary Survey 2005: 2).
While trying to address this issue of disparity, the SAA conducted a Needs Assessment Survey in which Jane E. Baxter (2005) found some clear trends. Male respondents did not perceive inequities as being common in many key areas of professional participation, including the arenas of publishing, conference participation, and to a lesser degree funding. Female respondents, not surprisingly, tended to view inequities as common in far greater numbers. The more general question relating to sexism and a glass ceiling showed that over one-quarter of male respondents perceived sexism as a common problem, but this was less than half the number of female respondents who did. In addition, over two-thirds of male respondents felt that juggling a family and career was the most significant issue facing women in archaeology today. While over half the females also felt this was the most significant issue, sexism, glass ceiling syndrome, and funding opportunities clearly remain important for women.
Baxter (2005) argues that this issue of perception is closely aligned with what has been termed "subtle sex discrimination" (per Benokraitis 1998). Legal statutes and changing social norms have largely eliminated blatant sex discrimination in most professional workplaces. However, subtle sex discrimination is different and often goes unnoticed because most people have internalized certain behaviors and attitudes as normal, natural, and acceptable, making this form of discrimination less visible and less obvious. Thus, subtle differences in professional opportunity; small differences in attitude from colleagues, students, and coworkers; and in some instances more blatant inequitable treatment likely account for some of the differences between male and female responses to the SAA survey. But the reasons that these issues - sexism, the glass ceiling, lack of funding opportunities, etc. - still exist are structural. And it is these structural issues that also influence the lack of diversity in SHA.
In the 1998 SHA survey, three percent of the respondents were black/African American. The representation of other ethnic minority groups historically underrepresented in American archaeology is currently unknown. While some archaeologists have individually worked to increase effort diversity in archaeology, first-hand observation at the SHA meetings demonstrates that the society is still predominately white.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism are broadly cultural, as well as economic and legal. They are also interconnected power relations in which the axes of identity intersect on multiple and often simultaneous levels, contributing to systematic social inequality (Collins 2000). Therefore, in order to fully understand racism, one must investigate the ways in which structures, social processes, and social representations are shaped by gender, class, and sexuality. These structural issues, such as unequal access to education, health care, and child care, can be seen in archaeological discourse, institutional rules and regulations, and economic and political arrangements, as well as cultural conceptions. They are often masked by ideology so that the unequal power relations are justified and rationalized and seen as natural and normal. Our voice as an organization matters. It is through our collective efforts that we can create diversity and make archaeology socially relevant.
A number of factors contribute to this lack of diversity. Here I focus on economics as a way to show the financial constraints of seeking diversity. Some would argue that archaeology degrees do not have an economic benefit. With the rising costs of tuition at universities and the increasing burden of debt from student loans, who can afford to pursue a career in historical archaeology? We need to create new initiatives to change the image of historical archaeology as financially risky and unlikely to yield a career.
One of the ways we seek to increase diversity is by gaining the interest of grade school students. I have heard from many of my colleagues that their efforts to interest students in archaeology are often curtailed when the question of money comes up. Young people are often excited about the possibility of learning about the past, but the number of years it requires to complete a graduate degree and the income possibilities do not compare with the benefits of other fields. The B.A. is usually a minimum requirement for regular employment, and supervisory or managerial positions virtually always require at least an M.A., if not a Ph.D.
Another impediment is that it is expensive to attend a field school, a necessary step to become an historical archaeologist. The average field school tuition costs about $2300. This includes Volume 44: Number 2 Summer 2011 Page 21 six credit hours, but does not include housing and travel. Nor does it take into consideration that a field school generally lasts a month to six weeks, which means that a student cannot work during that time. Many schools offer local field schools so that students do not have the expense of travel, but it is difficult to attend a field school and work, especially when for many students work is an economic necessity.
Volunteering in the lab or in a field project often leads to paid employment. I for one gained experience in archaeology by volunteering to screen artifacts, help on surveys, and wash artifacts. By donating my time to projects, I gained knowledge and experience. Yet there were often many times when I could not participate because I had to work to support myself. Since many students are taking full course loads and working full- or part-time jobs, volunteering, another opportunity to advance, is not always an option.
Students are also trained how to be archaeologists by networking with colleagues and presenting original research. One of the best places to network is at professional conferences. Yet attending the annual meeting of SHA is expensive (even with the student rate). Travel, accommodation, and food (right after Christmas) on a student (or underemployed) budget is difficult. The Ed and Judy Jelks Student Travel Fund provides, on a competitive basis, one or more cash awards to defray travel costs of two graduate students per year participating in the SHA annual meeting. But more opportunities like this are necessary.
Once one has a degree in archaeology, what opportunities await? With a B.A., one can work as a field technician (and this experience is often thought of as necessary for graduate school). Field technician jobs are practically the only jobs in archaeology that someone with these qualifications can obtain. According to Doug Rocks-MacQueen (2011), the average starting pay for field technicians in the last few years has gone from a little under $11 an hour to as high as $13.18 and currently resides around $12.87, having lost some ground in 2010. At the same time, the average starting pay of crew chiefs have moved from $13 to a high of over $18 and back down to around $16.50 (Rocks-MacQueen 2011). In 2010, the average yearly income for a field technician, assuming s/he works 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year, starts at $25,740 (Rocks-MacQueen 2011). This assumption concerning hours worked per year is, however, open to challenge. MacQueen compares these salaries against other salaries based on B.A. or B.S. degrees. He looks at the 10 lowest-paying degrees based on starting salaries (PayScale 2010) to determine that a B.A./B.S. in archaeology/anthropology will have the lowest possible starting wages (Rocks-MacQueen 2011).
In the ideal, the position of field worker is a temporary position, an interlude of acquiring skills and putting them into practice for a couple of years after graduation (McGuire and Walker 1999). After a period of time the field worker is expected to enter graduate school where s/he will acquire the necessary accreditation to leave the working class of CRM and join its middle class by becoming a field director or principal investigator. In this way of thinking, long-term or permanent field workers are thought to be trapped because of their own failings or lack of ambition in a position that should be temporary. Like adjuncts in the academy, they are blamed for their lack of advancement (McGuire and Walker 1999).
This information is not new. Adjuncts were the auxiliaries of the academy, but as positions have been cut and demands on faculty time increased, administrators have increasingly used adjuncts to perform core teaching functions in the university. Tenured faculty have acquiesced to, or even supported, this shift in order to maintain their privileged position. Today, individuals often cannot escape this adjunct status, and for many it has become a career track. Randy McGuire and Mark Walker (1999) pointed out that in both the academy and in CRM there is a growing archaeological proletariat that lacks a living wage, job security, benefits, and respect. The question then before us is: What is to be done? How do we increase the diversity, when we are looking at a profession thoroughly divided by class interests in which women and people of color are not equal?
An important step for increasing diversity is to develop initiatives that examine white privilege in archaeological practice. White privilege, similar to "subtle sex discrimination," is the benefits that accrue from white identity (see Babiarz 2011). We cannot ignore how whiteness affects power structures amongst archaeologists, including equity and diversity within the profession and involving communities of color in the archaeological process. Norman Fairclough (1989) offers a framework for understanding how power relations are maintained through social practice. Archaeological discourse refers to how archaeology is done and who is allowed to do it. Discourse is a place where power relations are exercised and enacted. Archaeology has a social order and an order of discourse, which involves a distinctive structuring of its 'social space' into sets of situations where discourse occurs (the classroom, the field, the professional conference, etc.). It also involves a set of recognized 'social roles' in which people participate in discourse (the head archaeologist, the professor, the student, the field technician, the public, etc.). Archaeology has a set of approved purposes for discourse (such as learning and teaching about the past, managing cultural resources) as well as a set of discourse types. The discourse types set up subject positions for the archaeologist and the student, and it is only by occupying one of the positions that one becomes an archaeologist or a student. By occupying these subject positions, the archaeologist and the student reproduce them; it is only through being occupied that these positions continue to be a part of the social structure. In order to change this social structure we need to recognize that the white, male, heterosexual archaeologist is not "unmarked and unremarkable, universal and representative" (Bérubé 2001:235). As a society, we need to look at our position of white privilege, the social relations among and between archaeologists and the subject positions archaeologists occupy to develop an equal, antiracist SHA and create new initiatives to increase diversity in archaeology.
The recognition of white privilege is not going to create diversity on its own. It also requires new initiatives. For instance, as Alan Reshner (2011) recently noted, universities in the United States have long rewarded tenure to members of their science faculties based almost entirely on their records of entrepreneurial success, research results, publications, and the committees on which they serve. This kind of system is no longer adequate. Professors need to engage more women and ethnically diverse science students, and universities need to reward those professors who successfully do so. The publish-or-perish journey to tenure needs to be recalibrated if we really want faculty members to pursue and nurture the diversity of innovative scientific ideas from all students, particularly among underrepresented groups.
While considering how tenure is calibrated is an important step for creating diversity, the Gender and Minority Affairs Committee proposes several initiatives to work toward the process of creating diversity for social justice. We think one of the most important steps is for the SHA Board to attend an antiracism workshop in order to start considering the role white privilege plays in archaeological practice. We plan to work with the newly re-forming Ethics Committee to prepare a statement Volume 44: Number 2 Summer 2011 Page 22 on gender equity, antiracism, and GLBT inclusivity. We'd also like to initiate a Diversity Field School Fellowship to help defray the costs of field school participation and a Conference Attendance Fellowship to help promote student attendance at SHA meetings and involvement within the society. We are also working with the Membership Committee on a survey to determine what the Society looks like now and in addition, we are developing a mentorship program to enroll, graduate, and employ underrepresented students in order to increase and continue student membership in the Society.
It is important for students to have the resources to attend field school, to gain skills in the field and the laboratory through paid opportunities, and to attend conferences such as the SHA meeting. This requires funding, better wages, and a revaluing of our work. The fact is diversity in historical archaeology brings forth new challenges and new issues. It means the field will look different as we ask new questions and bring forth new theoretical perspectives and research methods. It means we really have to consider why we seek diversity in order to address the issues that are structurally inhibiting people's ability to pursue careers in archaeology. These structural issues need to be addressed if we are going to have a membership that looks like the rest of the populations. Whew, big tasks. It is daunting; yet we follow in the footsteps of some great leaders who have shown that change can come from small steps.
2011 White Privilege and Silencing within the Heritage Landscape: Race and the Practice of Cultural Resources Management. In The Materiality of Freedom: Archaeologies of Post-Emancipation Life, edited by J. A. Barnes. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. Forthcoming October 2011.
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2001 How Gay Stays White and What Kind of White It Stays. In The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness, B. B. Rasmussen, E. Klinenberg, R. Nexica, and M. Wray, editors, pp. 234-265. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Collins, P. H.
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McGuire, R., and M. Walker
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2010 Best Undergrad College Degrees by Salary. 2010-2011 College Salary Report. Accessed November 1, 2010.
2011 Commentary: We Need to Reward Those Who Nurture a Diversity of Ideas in Science. The Chronicle of Higher Education. March 6. . Accessed March 7, 2011.
2011 Field Technicians, Making a Living? SAA Archaeological Record. Forthcoming fall 2011.
Society for American Archaeology (SAA) and Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA)
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Wright, R. P.
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