UCR Anthropology Professor Plays Central Role in Society for American Archaeology 75th Anniversary

By Staci Wilson, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
November 29, 2010

Professor Wendy Ashmore recently co-edited Voices in American Archaeology, a volume commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Society for American Archaeology. Professor Ashmore has been a member of the Society for American Archaeology since 1972 and has served on several committees since, most recently as a chair to select recipients of lifetime achievement awards within the society.

In April 2006, a task force met in St. Louis to discuss preparations for the society’s 75th anniversary. A book had been produced for the 50th anniversary, though with somewhat more haste than members cared to repeat, so for this anniversary work began early on to produce a new edition that would not just be an update of the previous anniversary volume, but a piece that could stand on its own. Professor Ashmore was selected by the Society’s task force to submit a proposal for the book. The Task Force approved Ashmore’s first draft, and she soon became the overseer of the project.

Professor Ashmore found amazing support in the co-editors she chose, Dorothy T. Lippert and Barbara J. Mills, and the three of them worked together off of Ashmore’s original proposal to choreograph a volume authored by 26 anthropologists. Ashmore’s vision was a volume that would look at a growing focus on indigenous populations, while challenging western privilege and interpretations of those populations. An important goal in Professor Ashmore’s work was to discuss what modern archaeologists actually do, rather than trying to define one archaeological approach that supposedly works for everyone in our times.

The editors chose a list of topics they wished to include, ranging from inequality’s effects on archaeology, to changes in subject matter and theory, to employment trends and influence. After general topics were chosen, the women looked for colleagues whose work might tie in best to each category, and then sought the most diverse groupings possible. Their goal was to have a volume that was as representative as possible, both in terms of gender and ethnicity, as well as junior or senior standing in the archaeological community. Rather than producing an entirely authoritative volume, the editors were looking to simulate productive discussion. In order to help facilitate this goal, each chapter is written by a pair of authors, as opposed to just one. The editors chose to pair authors who had never written together before in order to communicate as wide a range of interests and theoretical approaches as possible. Ashmore, Lippert, and Mills themselves worked primarily as organizers and overseers, inspiring the project and pushing its completion along, but choosing to write only in the introduction.

Voices in American Archaeology sold out on its first release and is undoubtedly an impressive display of progress in archaeological thought and approaches.

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