Public Archaeology cannot just 'fly at dusk': the reality and complexities of generating public impact


Bonacchi C (2018) Public Archaeology cannot just 'fly at dusk': the reality and complexities of generating public impact. Antiquity, 92 (366), pp. 1659-1661.

First paragraph: In his debate piece, 'The Brexit hypothesis and prehistory', Kenneth Brophy foregrounds some of the possible consequences of archaeology's media and public exposure. While recognising that (mis)appropriations of research for political purposes are nothing new, he stresses that these instrumental uses might have been amplified by a more interconnected Web. Brophy underlines that people are frequently presented with and consume archaeological findings in ways that relate the latter to contemporary social issues, such as Brexit, often inappropriately. His proposed solution to the problem is twofold. On the one hand, he recommends that archaeologists should 'push back' erroneous and hyperbolic accounts of their work featuring in the media and in public discussions online. On the other hand, he encourages them to 'pre-empt' such interpretations, also thanks to insights derived from social research aimed at understanding how individuals and groups interact with the past today. While I fully agree with the author that these measures are welcome and valuable, I believe that they cannot be, on their own, a 'solution'. They are laudable from a deontological point of view, but do not take into account the full reality of the world of media and communications, nor the ways in which people actually leverage the past when making sense of situations that concern them. Here I will briefly expand on both of these two points and argue that the dynamics of generating impact are complex and lengthy. Bearing this in mind, being public opinion influencers requires more substantial and profound public engagement on the part of 'public intellectuals', as Brophy calls them, than what is suggested in his paper.

Antiquity: Volume 92, Issue 366

FundersArts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date31/12/2018
Publication date online11/12/2018
Date accepted by journal20/09/2018

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