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Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Archaeological Perspectives on Culture and Sustainability

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  • Cameron B. Wesson

    () (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Lehigh University, 681 Taylor Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA)

Abstract

Predictions of the imminent demise of Indigenous cultures have circulated among Western intellectuals for more than two hundred years. Capitalism, Christianity, and Western civilization were thought by 19th century scholars to be on the verge of eradicating global cultural variation. Contemporary scholars have revived these views, suggesting that not only were Indigenous cultures about to succumb to Western hegemony, these forces were poised to bring about the end of history itself. What unites these perspectives are an ideology stressing asymmetrical power relations between the West and Indigenous cultures, and the proposition that only Western intervention is capable of rescuing Indigeneity. This paper examines the current crisis of Indigenous cultural sustainability, arguing that the epistemology informing many of these perspectives remain largely unchanged from their 19th century precursors. Citing case studies in archaeology and cultural heritage management, I suggest a ground-up approach to cultural sustainability in which Western institutions and individuals serve only the expressed desires and at the invitation of Indigenous peoples. Such restraint represents both recognition of Indigenous sovereignty regarding all cultural preservation efforts, as well as the dynamic, ever-changing nature of culture itself.

Suggested Citation

  • Cameron B. Wesson, 2013. "Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Archaeological Perspectives on Culture and Sustainability," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(1), pages 1-23, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:5:y:2013:i:1:p:100-122:d:22639
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ahmed, Syud Amer & Diffenbaugh, Noah S. & Hertel, Thomas W. & Ramankutty, Navin & Rios, Ana R. & Rowhani, Pedram, 2009. "Climate Volatility and Poverty Vulnerability in Tanzania," 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 49358, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    culture; sustainability; epistemology; archaeology; culture heritage;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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