Economic Development: Community Engagement and Grassroots Movements

Peter G Gould (University College London); Mike Robinson (Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham); Amanda Forster (Institute for Archaeologists)


Economic Development is significantly involved with entrepreneurship and business enterprises, but encompasses a wider international arena with the goal of improving standards of living in a targeted area. Many economic development programs have no direct profit motive; education, healthcare, cultural preservation and heritage management are all examples of areas of development that can support business development, but indirectly and not as the primary focus.

Archaeologists have long been engaged in efforts to improve conditions among the peoples and communities in which they work. Increasingly, the discipline is recognizing the potential for archaeologists both to advocate and underwrite economic development efforts.  This theme highlights WAC’s particular emphasis on sensitivity to local cultural values, priority to local political and cultural priorities, sustainability, community, and fairness. It will focus on bottom-up development and community-driven efforts to ensure that local and descendant communities maintain control over the commodification of their cultural heritage and on development opportunities that may lie beyond the realm of capitalism. Theories relating to community institutions and self-organization are relevant to this discussion, as are the practical experiences of archaeologists and other heritage professionals worldwide.

Within this theme there are numerous potential session threads, such as: (1) The theoretical foundation for community-led development; (2) Practical experiences from archaeologists pursuing development projects in the field; (3) Regional panels addressing the cultural, political and economic constraints and opportunities in various regions of the globe; (4) Funding and the policies of governmental and international grant-making organizations that help or harm community-based efforts; (5) Sustainability in the heritage sector; (6) Field museums and community museums as both economic engines and centers for local cultural development; (7) Looting, archaeology, and economic development, (8) The implications of indigenous archaeologies, feminist archaeologies, Marxist approaches and similar post-processual streams for archaeological practice relating to community development; (9) The relevance of cultural economics and efforts to measure “value”; (10) The role of media, especially new media, in advancing development objectives (11) The concept of assimilation and its implications for archaeological heritage; and similar sorts of topics; (11) Ethical obligations of archaeologists in economic development; (12) Heritage tourism and archaeology.


Archaeology and the Economic Perspective

Marilena FR Vecco (Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands)


This topic session aims to analyse the economic dimension of archaeology.
Some subtopics could be:

  • economic sustainability and archaeological sites,
  • the economic impact of the valorisation of archaeological sites,
  • new economic tools to manage archaeological sites,
  • economic evaluation of archaeological sites.


Challenges facing tourism development of built heritage

(التحديات والمعوقات التي تواجه التنمية السياحية في مواقع التراث العمراني)

Nevine Gharib Rezk (Alexandria University, Egypt)


Tourism is important for the economy of many countries that rely on it for income generation. We will discuss tourism and its types.  We will also discuss the importance of tourism in Egypt, its beginnings since the major discoveries and the richness of archaeology in the country, all of which contributed to the increase of tourism. Hence, sites became important tourism products and the need to develop them became vital. This revealed many obstacles and challenges along the way. The paper will look at tourism development, problem/challenges faced, its implications on local communities (pros and cons) and the various approaches (negative and positive) to developing sites for tourism purposes.


Case Studies in Sustainable Community Development Projects

Peter G Gould (University College London, United States of America)


This session is intended to explore through case studies from different geographic regions of the world the nature of projects undertaken by archaeologists to further economic development among communities living adjacent to archaeological sites. On a factual plane, the papers ideally will address specific projects in detail, including discussion of their origin, organizational structure, goals, activities, and any measured results. Ideally, papers also would explore the meaning of “sustainability” in the case of the specific project studied, the political and economic context of the project, the political and social context of the community in which the project was undertaken, and similar contextual variables. If a broad collection of parallel studies can be assembled in this session insights into general principles for organizing community-based economic development projects may be gleaned.


Measuring Archaeology’s Impact on Development

Paul D Burtenshaw (University College London, United Kingdom); Chiara Bonacchi (University College London, United Kingdom)


The ability and efficiency of archaeologists to be able to contribute to local development aims relies on a foundation of good data to feed into project design, assess impacts and results, and communicate any successes and failures to funders, stakeholders and other archaeologists. Currently, both the quantity of data available for archaeologists, and the methods available to them to do so are very poorly developed. Effective development, particularly at a bottom-up, community level, necessitates knowledge not just on the management of economic impacts but an holistic understanding of local politics, culture, capabilities and existing economic, social and cultural values communities have towards the archaeological resources mobilised. This data may be collected through economic impact assessments, surveys and interviews conducted by archaeologists.

This session proposes to bring together case studies where impacts from archaeological projects involved in development have been measured to mutually develop methodologies and best practice in this area. Papers already collected for this session (by the two proposes) are both set in the Near East as so there is an opportunity to focus on this area or have global coverage, depending on other papers received.


Archaeology, heritage and development: international narratives, local impacts

Sophia Labadi, (Kent University, UK, and World Bank); Albino Jopela, (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique)


In 2010, the United Nations recognised the important contribution of heritage for sustainable development. This was the culmination of more than two decades of reflections and initiatives on archaeology, heritage and development. Throughout the world, many projects and programmes have indeed promoted the idea of archaeology and heritage as economic ressources capable of providing new economic opportunities for local communities to grow out of poverty as well as catalyse local socio-economic development. Yet projects on heritage and development, usually backed up by or organized within the framework of international organizations such as UNESCO or the World Bank have unforeseen impacts and consequences such as rises of poverty levels, impositions of neocolonialist agenda or the destruction of sustainable livelihoods. In other words, the relationships between heritage and development still remain an unclear process with, too often, unforeseen and unmanaged results.

In this session we are therefore interested in papers analysing theoretical processes and practical experiences whereby dominant narratives and discourses on archaeology, heritage and development proposed by different international organizations have been reproduced and/or subverted at grassroots and national levels and how their impacts and consequences have been managed.

Selected papers might subsequently be published in an edited volume.


Archaeology as economic development: review and response

Amanda Kate Forster (Institute for Archaeologists, United Kingdom); Peter Gould (Institute for Archaeologists, United Kingdom); Roger White (Institute for Archaeologists, United Kingdom)


This forum offers a review of, and a response to, the theme title Archaeology as economic development: community engagement and grassroots movements. The session organisers proposed the theme with a desire to discuss archaeology in terms of its contribution to economic development, aiming to highlight efforts being made by archaeologists to improve conditions among the peoples and communities in which they work. Over the course of the conference, we will have heard from archaeologists working across the globe, who operate within different legislative frameworks, using different types of funding and interacting with heritage and communities in very different ways. This session will facilitate a review of what we have learnt from one another. It presents an opportunity to discuss collectively our common issues and problems and will build on the foundations set by theme participants throughout the conference. In short, we ask; what we have learnt about archaeology and economic development? And, what should we do now?