WAC Objectives WB9

Peter Stone

The Executive discussed at some length what we could expect WAC to achieve over the next four years and into the more distant future. Towards the end of the discussion, Fekri Hassan was asked to draft a summary of the debate. Two members of the Executive also decided to produce their own document on WAC’s future objectives. Both documents are produced below (with minor editorial amendment) for information and for comment by the wider membership.

Document 1

Fekri Hassan

Following a discussion of the reports from Regional/Indigenous representatives, the main objectives of WAC for the next 4 years are outlined as follows in order to facilitate further elaboration and discussion by the Council and the membership at large.

WAC’s overarching objective is seen as the promotion of dialogues and debates among advocates of different views of the past, but more importantly its mission is to open debate and refute those views, often institutionalized, to serve the interests of a privileged few to the detriment of others. The most virulent of such views have been engendered by the recent colonial past and sustained by its aftermath of economic and political inequalities between and within nations. WAC should be combating such views and institutional mechanisms that obliterate, smudge and distort accounts of the past, and those that marginalize the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples, minorities and the poor.

In order to achieve these primary objectives, WAC should focus on:

Public Education to raise awareness and provide communities with accessible information in order to engage them in the production of archaeological knowledge.
Professional Education and Training in order to enhance the active and effective participation of archaeologists from communities, groups, and nations that are at present severely handicapped and disadvantaged because of the lack of or inadequacy of professional human resources and facilities.
Action Research that addresses issues relevant to the emancipation, empowerment and betterment of indigenous groups, minorities, and the poor, as well as the conservation of archaeological and other Cultural Heritage. The themes of action research are designated as follows.
Conservation and Appropriate Presentation of archaeological and cultural resources especially these threatened by looting and vandalism, tourism, economic development projects, urban growth, war and other conflicts.
Development Archaeology as a means of conserving, presenting and managing archaeological resources to ameliorate the living conditions of poor and disadvantaged communities. The long-term conservation of sites must include developmental programs to sustain and maintain a healthy environmental milieu.
Trans-Regional and Regional Societal Action Projects as a means of dealing with issues of critical significance to contemporary societies in a changing global context. Such issues include, for example, conflicts over water resources, droughts and food scarcities, population, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, nationalism and identity, and globalisation.
Action Theories as a means of exploring, debating, and formulating the ethical and epistemological theories and philosophies and principles of archaeological practices.
ACTION FUNDING at a scale far greater than is currently available to WAC is needed if WAC is to become an effective international medium and in order to fulfil the objectives outlined above. WAC Charitable Company can serve as a vehicle for fund-raising, and WAC should facilitate access to information on grants and fundraising opportunities and to assist in submitting proposals on behalf of those groups that lack the capacity to do so. WAC should also encourage trans-regional action projects and seek funding for such projects.
Organizational Changes are needed as WAC assumes a more proactive role in order to fulfil the above objectives. Such changes, for example, include:
The creation of a WAC Central Office.
The creation of working groups or task forces to deal with specific issues.
A revision of the current means of disseminating information by combining the WAC Newsletter and WAB in a periodical, that appears regularly. The new publication can serve as the forum for the deliberations and discussions of the working groups. WAC should also explore new media for the children, illiterate adults, the media, teachers and policy makers.
WAC should also deal effectively with the problem of communication resulting from difference in languages among its membership especially members of the Executive and Council.
Support for regional meetings in order to promote the principles of WAC, increase membership, and activities within regions, especially where regional cooperation and integration is lacking or inadequate.
Reform the procedures currently in effect for the participation in the Executive Committee and the Council. Adequate time before the elections of WAC officers, members of the Executive, and Council should be granted to discuss the candidates’ qualifications and potential contributions to WAC. Information must reach the membership no less than four months in advance, and nominations must be made two months in advance of elections. Biographical information should be attached to notices on each and every candidate. The Regional meetings can serve as the mechanism by which members to the Council and the Executive are elected.
Document 2

Yoëlle Carter Martinez and Maggie Ronayne

In the discussion of the Executive of WAC on Sunday, 10th of January 1999, a number of future objectives were proposed for the World Archaeological Congress. While we agreed with the spirit of many of these proposals, we felt that there were a number of matters of substance with which we could not agree, and other important issues which we felt had been left out. Consequently, and in accordance with the emphasis that we’ve always seen in WAC itself on debate, we offer the following additional objectives. We request that this preamble, and the points listed below, be added to the previously proposed objectives, as part of a composite ‘think-piece’ (as Hirini Matunga called it) for the new officers. We also welcome comments from the entire membership on these points:

Recognition that WAC is a heterogeneous and often conflictive body of interest groups and political positions which respect democratic interaction, and that there is a need for a substantive representation of these points of difference as well as points of intersection between people, in order to have an open debate. For example, it should be recognised that there are theories of practice among WAC members informed by the ways in which those members are situated socially, not a WAC theory of practice decided by the Executive. WAC members may argue about which form of practice should be appropriate to WAC – taking positions on the nature of WAC and attempting to follow them through with statute revision, resolutions, projects and so on – but this debate should not be foreclosed.
The recognition of these ‘conflictive conversations’ within WAC, and the inequalities and power imbalances always present in them, is vital for WAC’s future structural organisation. In other words, we should not view the structure as an apolitical series of procedures. Rather, the structure relates directly to questions of power and representation. So, we suggest that the structure of the organisation needs to reflect a more substantial rather than formal kind of democracy, with the membership directing debate on, and decisions about, policy. While we recognise the financial difficulties which would follow a move towards regionalization and wide forms of communication amongst the membership (in the establishment of a permanent secretariat or series of them, for instance), it should be a central aspiration of WAC to work practically towards this substantive kind of representation, step by step. One obvious way of doing this is through the free WAC publications, with email discussion lists for those regions where it is appropriate to do this at the moment. Added to this might be a much clearer definition of the role of regional representatives.
Another important point, which relates to this full and frank process of communication, is language. While fully acknowledging our fellow Executive members’ comments on the financial and practical impossibilities of full translation of the myriad languages and dialects of the world, we suggest that this argument should not be used to stop the effort to ameliorate translation difficulties in the organisation. After all, these also have to do with questions of inequality and power – north/south divides and so on – and there are numbers of languages which, owing to processes of colonisation, are spoken by large numbers of people all over the world. It should be a central aspiration of WAC to avoid disenfranchisement of members, regional representatives on the Executive and national representatives on council on the basis of language problems, if at all possible. A number of initiatives has been suggested and some implemented throughout WAC 4. This debate should continue – in more than one language – in the pages of WAC publications in the coming four years.
Publications with which this organisation associates itself or produces are also ethically and politically governed by the statutes, codes and accords of WAC and so are the proper place for these kinds of debates. But given recent issues arising (e.g. with the OWA series, relating to contractual obligations, withdrawal of papers, publishing of authors linked to fascist politics, expense of the volumes), there is a need for a closer concern with the outcomes of the publications policy of WAC. Since publication is not an end in itself but has consequences within and beyond WAC, there is a need for a monitoring/advisory committee (which would consult widely) on the ethical and political issues relating to all of the WAC and WAC-associated publications. This could be integrated with the proposed ongoing review of, and debate about, revisions to the statutes and the proper concerns of WAC.
We recognise the funding problems that are ever present with an entity like WAC and fully support the drive to find sources of funding which would help the organisation to expand. However, given the differences and conflicts we talked about above, we suggest that those sources of funding should not be accepted without a consideration of the effects they might have on full and frank debate, and on the freedom of WAC to champion certain issues. Specifically we urge caution in the application for NGO status by WAC. The discourse of ‘human rights’ we would be signing up to, while it has been used strategically by some (and we support this use), has been anything but emancipatory for other groups of people who are a part of WAC.
We agree with the other part of this composite document that there should be a wider domain of practical action on the part of WAC members, in implementing the statutes, code and accords of the organisation. This could occur through projects, supported meetings which debate specific issues like ethics, the politics of ‘sustainable heritage’, the effects of tourism and the monitoring of transnational economic developments in relation to their effects on people and the material histories of those people. The issues change, depending upon the scale at which we focus our efforts. Rather than fixing groups of people as ‘the poor’, ‘women and other minorities’, ‘indigenous’ and so on who are defined as ‘to be helped’, we suggest promoting more debate on, and exposing, through our field projects, the ways in which the oppression of people and their pasts are brought about. Seeing this point through would mean dealing with how those different oppressions intersect on local, regional and global stages and acting to counteract them. This action would, again, be through our field projects, through lobbying, through the use of resolutions, statements of policy and the statutes, code and accords of WAC to lend support. The point then becomes the ability of all of those disenfranchised groups to speak up for themselves, and struggle with other representations of the past, rather than remaining under the control of a narrowly conceived profession of archaeology – a more powerful form of knowledge which seeks to represent them on its own terms. As a result of this, we don’t consider it wise that WAC should be promoted in and for itself – as though providing a service to a consumer-membership – but that its members should take on the responsibility of promoting debate on these issues.
Finally, as feminists we note with pleasure that one of the points the new president of WAC chose to emphasise, in his identification of key issues for WAC at council on 11th of January, 1999, was the rights of women. We suggest that a full debate now take place, in the regular WAC publications, as to how this emphasis can be turned into practical achievements.
Please send any comments on either of the above documents to the editor who will pass them on to Officers and authors. Any comments or developments will be reported in future issues of the Bulletin.