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  • Writer's pictureDr Felicia J Fricke

Writing on Archaeology and Social Justice in Island Worlds

Felicia J. Fricke and Rachel Hoerman

Greetings! Our short editorial/opinion piece entitled ‘Archaeology and social justice in island worlds’ has just been published in the journal World Archaeology – we’re very excited to see it in print and want to take this opportunity to provide some background information on how the article came to be.

We met in the Caribbean in 2021, and during discussions about archaeology in our respective geographical areas, we realised that there are many problems shared by archaeology in the Dutch Caribbean and in the Hawaiian Islands. Angry, we began to wonder if these shared archaeological problems, already noted for the discipline as a whole by other scholars, might be exacerbated in small island contexts. It occurred to us that someone should write this down.

As we began to articulate our ideas, we felt more and more that the increased fragility of small island environments, when it comes to archaeological ethics and social justice, was a topic that needs to be more widely acknowledged. It is only once such problems are identified that they can be resolved – for that reason, we hope that our short text in World Archaeology will start conversations between archaeologists on the ground, and between archaeologists and local community members.

As the opinion piece developed, we were in discussion with numerous stakeholders working or living in both the Caribbean and the Hawaiian Islands who very generously donated their time to read, encourage, criticise, and correct our text. These kind individuals included representatives of the St Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance and the Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective. There were often extremely important issues discussed that unfortunately could not be included in the article text because they were so specific to a particular place. For this article, we were looking for challenges that unite all these islands, and certainly others around the world. However, the discussions that we were forced to leave out only demonstrate the importance of the topic – further conversations about the neo-colonialism of archaeology in small island settings will, by necessity, be more locally focussed and tailored to place.

We are optimistic about the future of archaeology in island worlds – there is much that our discipline can contribute, but it has to be done in a way that respects local, descendant, and Indigenous cultures, agency, and authority rather than advancing the goals of extractive academia and capitalism that may seem so much stronger and more difficult to fight on a small island.

We hope you find that this opinion piece resonates with problems you have observed, or indeed points out problems that you had not noticed, and we look forward to future discussions on this topic. You can read the article Open Access here.

Felicia J. Fricke (IN THE SAME SEA, University of Copenhagen) and Rachel Hoerman (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa / Kaliʻuokapaʻakai Collective / Huliauapaʻa / Nohopapa Hawaiʻi). Please do get in touch with us if you have any questions! We would love to dialogue more with you about this, especially if you have noticed these archaeological problems in your island spaces.


With heartfelt thanks to Rose Mary Allen, Luc Alofs, Xiomara Balentina, Taylor Brown, Andreana Cunningham, Kenneth Cuvalay, Jason Ford, Heather Freund, Samara Gonçalves de Albuquerque, Hannah Hjorth, Marie Keulen, marjolijn kok, Gabriëlle La Croix, Durwin Lynch, Kepā Maly, Annina van Neel, Matthew Reilly, Natália da Silva Perez, Derrick Simmons, Gunvor Simonsen, and Miriam Stark.

We are so humbled and grateful to have briefly known and worked with the late Fredrico Cachola. Mahalo nui for sharing your manaʻo, ʻike, and aloha with us.

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