Statement on Racism

Department of Archaeology
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

June 09, 2020

We have watched with horror in recent weeks the racist events that have unfolded in the US, as well as widespread evidence of police brutality in the face of peaceful and justified protest. 

At the same time, we recognize that the problems recently brought to the forefront in the US are hardly unique to it, and indeed endemic globally. Germany has a long history of racism too. Chancellor Angela Merkel has acknowledged the need for racism in this country to be addressed, with German police also facing accusations of racist violence.

Even closer to home though, we must acknowledge the racism integral to our own discipline. Notions of biologically-determined difference and inferiority were central to the early establishment of all branches of anthropology. These notions filter through in diverse ways to present-day perceptions, interpretations and practice.

We acknowledge our Department’s need to commit to playing a role in actively and sincerely addressing the problem of racist and colonial practice in archaeology. We know we can do better and we know that concrete action is required.

We pledge to listen and educate ourselves, as well as learn from the Black community and others facing racism and discrimination, in order to create a more inclusive culture within our Department and in our research.

We pledge to work hard to improve the diversity of our students and staff at all levels. In particular, we acknowledge – and pledge to address – the paucity of Black students, technicians, postdoctoral researchers, lab leaders and group leaders in our Department. 

We work in Africa and other formerly colonized regions, and acknowledge the role of deep structural inequalities in shaping the nature and practice of fieldwork in these areas. We pledge to work to improve our field and research practices so they are more inclusive, ethical and locally engaged.

We pledge to encourage more open discussion of race to ensure that marginalization, bias and systemic racism are openly acknowledged, and stop impacting the careers and prospects of so many archaeologists of colour.

We pledge to create meaningful change in our community to ensure we play a role in changing society for the better, and actively combatting systemic racism.

We also look to our wider society to support us in these efforts to address systemic inequality and racism.

We look to the Max Planck Society to acknowledge endemic racism just as it has endemic gender discrimination, and commit resources and personnel to addressing inequality on the basis of race. More broadly, we look to all government, academic, corporate and other organisations across Germany to take a more active role in combatting racism, abuse, bias and marginalization in our society.

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