CFAS and Amerind Museum Host Design Workshop on Governance, Well-being, and Sustainability

CfAS, in collaboration with the Amerind Museum, recently hosted a five-day “design workshop” focused on rethinking how governance is conceptualized in archaeology, and on how different forms of governance relate to long-term societal well-being and sustainability as evidenced by diverse archaeological cases.

As the name suggests, a design workshop is intended as the first stage of a larger research effort. In a design workshop, a small group explores a research question and designs a synthesis project to address that question in ways that both contribute to scientific understandings of important social processes and that yield outcomes with contemporary relevance.

The October 10-15, 2023 workshop was generously hosted by the Amerind Museum, in scenic Texas Canyon, Arizona.   Led by Gary Feinman, 10 archaeologists and a political scientist, from the US and the UK, developed a focused problem statement that conceptualized governance for middle range and complex societies on a continuum from authoritarian to democratic (centralized to distributed).  The group developed archaeological indicators for governance, well-being and sustainability and for potential structuring variables, all operationalized in a detailed coding scheme in which cases are archaeologically- or historically-documented societies.

The group developed a pilot sample of about 50 archaeological cases that could be coded by the workshop participants or their close colleagues and a plan to expand the spatial and temporal coverage of archaeological and historical cases in the next stage of the research. The workshop participants will complete a trial coding of a small number of cases and then meet by videoconference in early 2024 to discuss any needed adjustments to the coding scheme. We’ll then proceed with coding the remaining cases in the pilot sample, analyze the resulting dataset and, and develop a report on the pilot study in spring 2024.

The next stage of the research will be a working group effort in which an expanded group of participants will meet two or three times over a period of two years. The working group will complete the coding and analysis of the expanded sets of cases, prepare scientific publications, and develop public policy recommendations based on the results of the research. Additional working group participants with knowledge of archaeological and historical cases not already represented will be recruited via a CfAS Request for Information (as were the design workshop participants).

If a CfAS NSF grant now under review is funded, we’ll proceed directly to the working group effort.  Otherwise, to fund the working group, the workshop participants will develop a proposal based on the research design developed by the design workshop and informed by the group’s ongoing pilot study.

The Amerind Museum’s facilities, setting, and hospitality were most conducive to a productive workshop. As a result of Feinman’s effective leadership and a marvelous group of highly collaborative and enthusiastic participants, the workshop was a great success.

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