Hosting the session on “Messy methods: Heritage studies and the quest for multi-methodological approaches” and Elisabeth Niklasson and I also use the opportunity to present our own thoughts on the matter in a paper entitled “Archaeology ‘off the record’ – Ethnical and methodological challenges when studying up”.
Abstract: The past is no longer what it used to be, and neither is archaeological fieldwork. Over the last decade archaeologists studying the politics of the past have expanded their analytical and methodological tool-kit to include ethnography, qualitative interviews and textual analysis. Moving beyond the aim of showcasing how sites and narratives were (mis)used in the 20th century, researchers have begun to study heritage policy and archaeopolitics “in situ”. As heritage researchers or interns, they participate in UNESCO meetings, EU panels and national parliamentary sessions, examining by what means and to what ends the past is mobilized right now. This new focus on institutions and people of power has paved the way for a deeper understanding of the inner workings of heritage politics and governance, including the conditions that make (mis)uses of the past possible. It has also, however, meant stepping onto a minefield of ethical andmethodological issues that archaeologists are often ill-prepared to navigate. In this contribution we draw on our experiences studying the politics of the past in UNESCO and the EU to address two such interconnected issues: firstly, how to acquire empirical material that tells you not just what people are up to, but what they “think they are up to”, and secondly, how to deal with such unofficial and sometimes sensitive information once you have it. Alongside examples of our own failures and successes, we draw on the growing body of policy research and propose multi-methodological strategies that can strengthen interpretations and claims based on such information.