About Terry Klein

Executive Director of the SRI Foundation, and Chair of SHA's Governmental Affairs Committee. As of January 2014, will be President-Elect of the Register of Professional Archaeologists.

Panel Session Topic: “Training Historical Archaeologists in the 21st Century: Does Theory Matter Anymore?”

Terry Majewski and I are facilitating what will undoubtedly be a thought-provoking, highly interactive, and potentially controversial panel discussion on the training of historical archaeologists. The session, entitled “Training Historical Archaeologists in the 21st Century: Does Theory Matter Anymore?” will be held on Thursday, January 9, from 1:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. (Room 301A).  Panel members will include Mary Beaudry, Lu Ann De Cunzo, John Doershuk, Adrian Praetzellis, Timothy Scarlett, Teresa Singleton, and Mark Warner.  This session will include lots of time for questions and discussions among the panel members and session audience, so we hope many of you will be able to attend the session.

The panel discussion begins with the premise that historical archaeology still falls within two overarching theoretical camps:  (1) postmodern/post-processual archaeology and (2) processual archaeology. The former includes multiple approaches such as critical theory, Marxist theory, feminist or gendered archaeology, post-colonial archaeology, practice theory, etc. Processual archaeology is a continuation of the New Archaeology of the 1970s, which applies scientific methods to archaeological research.  Our panel of prominent historical archaeologists will evaluate the role and impact of these differing theoretical orientations in preparing students for careers in both academia and the world of cultural resource management (CRM)/heritage management. Our panel members, representing both academia and applied archaeology, including CRM, will be asked to consider whether or not these two differing theoretical orientations have equal applicability toward advancing a student’s career in academia vs. a career in CRM; and toward contributing to the questions that count in historical archaeology.

The panel will be asked to address the following questions:

Question 1: The majority of historical archaeology in the United States and Canada is conducted to fulfill the requirements of environmental and historic preservation laws. How can training in a postmodern approach to historical archaeology benefit a student seeking a career in CRM, when the work they will be doing:

  • will be conducted in a business or government agency context,
  • will involve the production of technical reports to be reviewed by government agencies,
  • will be used to demonstrate legal compliance with historic preservation and environmental laws, and
  • might also involve the implementation of public outreach and engagement programs, and consultation with descendent communities and other public stakeholders in the archaeological effort?

Question 2: The articles published in Historical Archaeology and recent volumes on the discipline of historical archaeology seem to suggest that postmodernism is the predominant theoretical orientation for historical archaeological endeavors in academic settings. This also seems to be the case in terms of the sessions and papers presented at SHA’s annual meetings over the last several years.  Do you believe that this is the case, and if so, what role, if any, does a processual approach to historical archaeology have in the training of university students for a career in academia?

Question 3: Do we have an ethical obligation to objectively present the realities of the job market to students pursuing a career in historical archaeology?  If we do, what are the most effective methods and approaches to present these realities to students?

Question 4: How can we ensure as a discipline that practitioners in all career tracks have the opportunity, grounding, and commitment to make a difference and contribute to answering the questions that count in historical archaeology?

Hope to see you at the session and we look forward to some lively discussions!