#LandBack, the Law, and Anthropologists as Expert Witnesses: Ethical Quandaries for Decolonizing Times

Matthew Liebmann
Mon April 29th 2024, 3:30 - 5:00pm
Department of Anthropology
Building 50, Room 51A


As anthropology struggles to acknowledge its complicity in the settler colonial project, some archaeologists have called on the discipline to help regain what has been taken from Indigenous communities over the past 500 years.  While most anthropological efforts have focused on repatriation under NAGPRA, less attention has been focused on the roles that archaeology might play in the return of Indigenous land.  One avenue for Indigenous land reclamation in the US has been to seek redress through the court system.  Anthropologists have often served as expert witnesses in these cases, testifying both for and against tribal nations and Indigenous communities.  This talk will explore the role that anthropologists and archaeologists played in one recent case, Pueblo of Jemez v. United States.  Participation in this trial surfaced some of the ethical quandaries that anthropologists face as expert witnesses, and in activist anthropology more generally.  In doing so, it also highlights the ways in which anthropological archaeology can both help and hinder efforts to return Indigenous lands.


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