The AFA is pleased to announce an honorable mention for the 2018 Sylvia Forman Award to Tiffany C. Cain for her paper, “Reflecting on Positionality: Archaeological Heritage Praxis in Quintana Roo, Mexico,” advisor Richard M. Leventhal (University of Pennsylvania).
Cain’s paper calls for a renewed engagement with the concept of positionality in archaeology. She begins the essay by tracing the intellectual development of positional thinking among archaeological scholars. She cites their encounters with post-/de-colonial and feminist standpoint theories as critical axes in this development. She then suggests that this engagement could be deepened by thinking more with women of color and queer decolonial feminisms, specifically. She argues that transparent and position-conscious feminist praxis could root out restrictive, repressive, and injustice-perpetuating archaeological approaches, but asserts that it will take more archaeologists being willing to stand to the challenge. In the second half of the essay, she offers ethnographic and autoethnographic accounts to highlight how sustained reflection on her positionality has influenced her research trajectory and the kinds of alliances and collaborations that have been possible in her work in central Quintana Roo, Mexico. She focuses on how members of the community where she lives and works have understood her in relation to the collaborative heritage initiative centered on the Maya Social War (Caste War of Yucatan) that she helps to coordinate. By offering these reflections, she hopes to reinvigorate and strengthen the unfinished work of positionality in archaeology.