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Privileging the Past

Troy Lovata,

Core: Social & Behavioral Sciences

Course Description

The past is a powerful thing—powerful enough that people are willing to fight over it in battles big and small in order to define the present. People have long used both ancient artifacts as well as images of and stories about the past as social and cultural currency in labeling themselves, their societies, and their conceptions of others. This Core Course uses the fields of Anthropology, Archaeology, Heritage Preservation, Folklore, and Cultural Geography to examine the different ways in which scholars, politicians, activists, heritage professionals, artists, advertisers, and members of the general public use and abuse prehistory and history. This course utilizes the fundamentals of the Social and Behavioral Sciences to consider how and why different people and different groups turn to the past to cope with the conditions of their modern world. Topics include: the preservation of material culture; representations and re-creations of older objects and ideas; heritage tourism and the commodification of the past; varied conceptions of tradition and custom; legal protections afforded to ancient artifacts, ideas, and places; and definitions of authenticity. Students will examine case studies from around the world and directly compare them—first-hand through tours, site visits, and original research—to examples in Albuquerque and across New Mexico.

Readings and Texts

A series of articles available on UNM's Ereserves from the disciplines of Anthropology, Archaeology, Heritage Preservation, Folklore, and Cultural Geography.

Inauthentic Archaeologies: Uses and Abuses of the Past by Troy Lovata (Routledge/Left Coast Press, 2007)

Playing Indian by Philip Deloria (Yale University Press, 1999)

And a series of documentary and ethnographic films available online from The Archaeology Channel.

Films and Other Course Materials

Students will complete a research and review project of short documentary films available online for free from the Archaeology Channel.

Student Requirements

Students enrolled in this course will fully participate in seminar discussions and complete a series of short, written and presentation-based assignments about how the past is used in the present. There will be several in-class field trips around campus and Albuquerque as well as opportunities for students to compare readings and seminar discussion topics to information they collect first-hand using fundamental Social Science data and observation collection techniques. This includes an practice ethnographic assignment about modern Native American culture and perceptions of the past at the Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow in April.

About the Instructor

Troy Lovata, Ph.D. is a tenured, Associate Professor in the Honors College. His courses explore our cultural relationship with the world around us and examine our connections to the past. Dr. Lovata holds a Doctorate in Anthropology, with a focus on Archaeology, from the University of Texas.