How does archaeology engage Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK?
Although archaeology often tackles the question of ethnicity in e.g. slave trade studies (http://www.assemblage.group.shef.ac.uk/5/hicks.html), the University of Durham’s ‘Archaeology of Race’ (challenging schools to look at immigration through time) and recent investigations of important ‘Black’ sites in America e.g. ‘The Hill’ , how often are the communities about whom the story is being told involved in their interpretation? It may be telling that the Society of Black Archaeologists was formed last year in the USA to encourage more people of African descent to enter the field of archaeology and argue for the proper treatment of African material culture .
How do we encourage BAME groups to get involved in archaeology? A recent good example was the University of Brighton Inclusive Archaeology Project while in Sheffield Hindu Samaj , whilst not looking directly at archaeology, are investigating links between the present Hindu community and the Derbyshire textile industry, preparing walks around the surviving buildings in Carver.
One of our target groups for the Digability project was the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in Yorkshire and the Humber. To date we have been unsuccessful in either recruiting or sustaining a viable student cohort from these communities. This we believe is probably for a number of different reasons: a lack of awareness of the transferability of the archaeological subject to communities with seemingly no ‘origin’ roots in the UK; a paucity of active involvement of BAME adults in heritage activity in the region as a whole; or a difficulty (on our behalf) in liaising with, and responding to the interests and needs of the potential student groups that we have been in contact with.
We would love to hear of other projects where BAME groups are getting involved in local history and archaeology and the inspirations behind each project.