Universiteit Leiden

nl en


Elephants in the Room

Wednesday 22 February 2023
Van Steenis building, Lecture room F1.04

Excavation entails destruction, whether it is in programmed fieldwork, rescue excavations, or development-led archaeology, where it is an integral part of the chain of landscape destruction. Some archaeological fieldwork builds on scientific infrastructures that were developed in colonial settings, and that continue to influence research practices and funding to this very day. And as the recent discussion about the Faculty of Archaeology’s possible participation in a Saudi Arabia-funded collaboration demonstrated, there are other ways in which archaeological research can do harm or keep societal power structures in place by legitimizing them. 

Archaeologists, and scientists in general, rarely explicitly discuss the potential harm of their activities: it is this “elephant in the room” that we will address in this meeting. While presenting one archaeological case study, the meeting will take a broader perspective. Starting from the recent introduction of the ‘do no significant harm’ principle in European science policy, we use case studies from different fields to ask the question: how may we acknowledge the harms we, as academics, contribute to and how might we engage with these harms reflectively and productively?

Speakers: Thomas Franssen (Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University) & Mandy de Wilde (Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam), Wil Roebroeks (Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University), Sarah de Rijcke (Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University). The meeting will be moderated by Marja Spierenburg (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences).

Liveable communities – Liveable Planet

The Liveable Planet programme is one of the eight interdisciplinary programmes that were launched at Leiden University in 2020

Leiden’s Liveable Planet programme aims to combine scientific, policy, socio-cultural and historical/archaeological research at Leiden University into coherent research with which we can tackle the major challenges of a transition to a habitable planet with ecological sustainability. The programme will  serve as a hub for the wide range of relevant research carried out within Leiden University and welcomes interaction with colleagues interested in contributing to the initiative within as well as outside of Leiden University.

Liveable communities – Liveable Planet

This website uses cookies.  More information.