Andrzej Antczak to head World Archaeology: “Keeping archaeology relevant in a globalising world”
With the departure of Tesse Stek to the Royal Dutch Institute in Rome for three years, Andrzej Antczak will take over the role of Departmental Head for World Archaeology in September 2018. We spoke with him to learn more about his background, ideas, and plans for the future.
Strengths and challenges
“I have been at the Faculty for nearly 5 years as Senior Researcher in the ERC-Synergy project NEXUS1492, as an Associate Professor in Caribbean Archaeology, and also as a member of the Education Committee. I am, therefore, well acquainted with the strengths and challenges of our Faculty, staff members, and students.
With regards to my previous academic steps: I am a Venezuelan archaeologist of Polish origin with a degree in anthropology and a PhD in archaeology from University College London. Since the 1980s, together with Dr. Marlena Antczak, my wife and colleague with the same academic career, we have dedicated more than three decades to systematic archaeological research in the Venezuelan Caribbean, publishing in Spanish, English, Dutch, Polish and French, and contributing to the formation of students and the creation of archaeological research units in Venezuela.
Our ‘being on the islands’ contributed organically to our personal engagement with different categories of Caribbean social actors and our understanding of their current tensions and conflicts, as well as our sharing in a number of these. This lived experience influenced our emphasis on ‘experiential archaeology’ in which the local community was directly involved in our archaeological fieldwork. This is one of the ways in which archaeological practice carried out in any place in the world can be transformative to present day society.”
Transformation and globalisation
“Above all, I wish to congratulate my predecessor Dr. Tesse Stek for his contribution to our departmental strengths! It is obvious, however, that there are continuous new challenges related to shifts in theoretical and methodological approaches and rapid development of cutting-edge technologies. The contexts in which we generate our interpretations of the past as well as the job markets for our students are in continuous flux and transformation. Last but not least, the globalising world is largely indifferent or even hostile to the preservation of archaeological sites on which our fieldwork and research depend, and which fuel our teaching.
In the World Archaeology Department, we have to be especially aware of and sensitive to all these changes. We should not only respond to them in a timely manner, but we should also contribute to or produce some of these changes ourselves. As world archaeologists, we are the only professionals who can gauge the deep past from across the globe using for this purpose our academic strengths (skills, abilities, and knowledge building capacities) to bring to the fore those topics, tensions, and solutions that may be relevant to the societies around us.”
Tensions and conflicts
“I aspire that we continue actively contributing to current debates within archaeology and discussing with our colleagues and students significant issues and global concerns in our fields of expertise. As the archaeologists we are, we should also actively seek to contribute to the amelioration of tensions and conflicts that exist in our contemporary world, in and beyond the walls of academia.
These ambitious plans cannot be converted into reality without the support of our Faculty Board, committees and associations, staff members and students. These plans are therefore a gremial effort oriented to continue strengthening the already-implemented good and steady pace! Our students are more international every year, so we have to be more and more relevant both nationally and internationally in our research, teaching, and public efforts. To achieve these goals, we also have to collaborate more closely with our departments of Archaeological Science and of Archaeological Heritage and Society through joint research and educational projects.
If we wish to carry the banner of World Archaeology in a globalising world in which the impact of archaeology outside of academia is increasingly more politically and ideologically loaded, we should be more synergistic in our vision and practice.”