The Bioarchaeologists' Northeasten Regional Dialogue (BNRD)

Anti-Racism Statement and Action Plan

The Bioarchaeologists’ Northeast Regional Dialogue Organizing Committee recognizes that bioarchaeology has roots in the wider field of biological anthropology that has benefitted from, and contributed to, the development and sustenance of systemic racism and inequalities in American society, including the rise of white supremacy. Indeed, many bioarchaeologists can trace their “academic lineage” back to Earnest Hooton, who played a significant role in biologizing race. We also acknowledge that many of the skeletal assemblages used in this discipline are composed of marginalized peoples, many of whom are of Black and/or Native American and Indigenous populations (e.g., de la Cova 2019; Muller et al. 2016). We firmly believe that Black Lives Matter. For that reason, we join in the movement to change our field by addressing issues that may contribute to sustained systemic marginalization of BIPOC scholars and communities. We pledge to take both institutional and individual responsibility to dismantle the systemic practices that have upheld the status quo in race inequalities. We recognize that this lineage has centered whiteness, and we now seek to de-center that whiteness. As such, the BNRD Organizing Committee offers these actionable pledges moving forward, and we want to be held accountable for these actions (see the panel discussion “Archaeology in the Times of Black Lives Matter” presented by TAG North America, The Society of Black Archaeologists, and the Columbia Center for Archaeology for an in-depth discussion about what our community can and should be doing right now):

 

  • We recognize that one of the major ways that we combat racism is by teaching what race is (and is not) in the classroom in our home institutions. Specifically, we acknowledge the fact that simply stating that “race is not a genetic reality” does not go far enough, as racism has significant biological consequences. We will compile resources on our website which, following the work of Gravlee (2009), Watkins (2020), and Lans (2018), speak to the embodied nature of structural inequality associated with the social reality of race. This website component will also include readings and other resources on implicit bias and white privilege to encourage community intervention and allow individual self-reflection.

  • We encourage each member to examine their syllabi for bias in author representation and to #citeblackwomen

  • We encourage members to consider thoughtful outreach to underrepresented students, including creating affordable field school opportunities, applying for grants that support undergraduates in the field and/or research, and engaging in training for support of students from underrepresented groups (see Heath-Stout and Hannigan 2020)

  • We insist on respect for our colleagues and students of color within our discipline and institutions. As bioarchaeologists, we also need to ensure their safety in the field. We recognize the intersection of race with other identities, such as gender, sexuality, and disability, which may leave some individuals more vulnerable than others. 

  • We will present an agreement for all future meeting attendees to sign when registering for a meeting that will hold them accountable for behavior at meetings.

  • We will print land acknowledgements in our program and make a land acknowledgement at the beginning of our annual meeting.

  • We will create “Conference Guidelines for Anti-Racism” for our annual meeting program, which will include, among other behaviors:

    • Asking someone about their position, instead of assuming that they are a student or professor

    • Being respectful of all participants in your questions and interactions

    • Respecting the fact that you are discussing a human being when talking about their skeleton; inappropriate behavior such as jokes about skeletons or bones will not be tolerated.

  • We will develop more rigorous guidelines for abstract acceptance and conference presentations, making clear what we expect to see by providing these guidelines in our Call for Papers. For example, participants must discuss the origins and histories of the collections that enable their research. A feedback process will ensure opportunities for editing and resubmitting. 

  • We will develop guidelines for how to ethically show images of human remains when presenting papers, including warnings at the beginning of presentations. 

  • The organizing committee will provide an update on these pledges at the next annual meeting (and at subsequent meetings) in order to be held accountable. 

  • We invite input from our members. If you have a comment on how we as a community and organization can better support an anti-racist agenda, please reach out to bnrd.conf@gmail.com

 

The BNRD Organizing Committee


 

References Cited:

 

de la Cova, Carlina. 2019. Marginalized Bodies and the Construction of the Robert J. Terry Anatomical Skeletal Collection: A Promised Land Lost. In: Madeleine Mant and Alyson Jaagumägi Holland, editors. Bioarchaeology of Marginalized Peoples. Academic Press, London. pp. 133-155.

 

Gravlee, C. Lance. 2009. How Race Becomes Biology: Embodiment of Social Inequality. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139:47-57.

 

Heath-Stout, Laura E. and Elizabeth M. Hannigan. 2020. Affording Archaeology: How Field School Costs Promote Exclusivity. Advances in Archaeological Practice 2020:1-11. DOI:10.1017/aap.2020.7

 

Lans, Aja. 2018.’ “Whatever Was Once Associated with him, Continues to Bear his Stamp”: Articulating and Dissecting George S. Huntington and His Anatomical Collection’. In Pamela K Stone, editor. Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies. Springer, New York.  pp.11-26.

 

Muller, Jennifer L., Kristen E. Pearlstein, and Carlina de la Cova. 2016. Dissection and Documented Skeletal Collections: Embodiments of Legalized Inequality. In: Kenneth C. Nystrom, editor. The Bioarchaeology of Dissection and Autopsy in the United States. Springer, New York.  pp.185-201.

 

Watkins, Rachel J. 2020. An Alter(ed)native Perspective on Historical Bioarchaeology. Historical Archaeology 54:17-33.