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Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 100-122; doi:10.3390/su5010100
Article

Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Archaeological Perspectives on Culture and Sustainability

Received: 5 November 2012; in revised form: 14 December 2012 / Accepted: 17 December 2012 / Published: 7 January 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Endangered Human Diversity: Languages, Cultures, Epistemologies)
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Abstract: Predictions of the imminent demise of Indigenous cultures have circulated among Western intellectuals for more than two hundred years. Capitalism, Christianity, and Western civilization were thought by 19th century scholars to be on the verge of eradicating global cultural variation. Contemporary scholars have revived these views, suggesting that not only were Indigenous cultures about to succumb to Western hegemony, these forces were poised to bring about the end of history itself. What unites these perspectives are an ideology stressing asymmetrical power relations between the West and Indigenous cultures, and the proposition that only Western intervention is capable of rescuing Indigeneity. This paper examines the current crisis of Indigenous cultural sustainability, arguing that the epistemology informing many of these perspectives remain largely unchanged from their 19th century precursors. Citing case studies in archaeology and cultural heritage management, I suggest a ground-up approach to cultural sustainability in which Western institutions and individuals serve only the expressed desires and at the invitation of Indigenous peoples. Such restraint represents both recognition of Indigenous sovereignty regarding all cultural preservation efforts, as well as the dynamic, ever-changing nature of culture itself.
Keywords: culture; sustainability; epistemology; archaeology; culture heritage culture; sustainability; epistemology; archaeology; culture heritage
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Wesson, C.B. Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Archaeological Perspectives on Culture and Sustainability. Sustainability 2013, 5, 100-122.

AMA Style

Wesson CB. Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Archaeological Perspectives on Culture and Sustainability. Sustainability. 2013; 5(1):100-122.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wesson, Cameron B. 2013. "Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Archaeological Perspectives on Culture and Sustainability." Sustainability 5, no. 1: 100-122.


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