The day after Brexit

Dear UK members of the EAA,

it is the feeling of the EAA Board and my own conviction, that I should send a message to you all in this very unique moment, the day after the enactment of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

Even if we accept that this is the outcome of a democratic process, many of us recognise this step as one that will have dramatic implications for the European Union as an institution and the more ambitious idea of Europe as a community of nations and its role in the World.

And it is also true that most of us look back on the date of January 31 2020 with deep sadness. No doubt the future books of history and sociology will speak about this day and its effects for many years to come. This day will result in long term effects and significant transformation within Europe and also Europe’s relationship with the UK in ways that we cannot predict now. These effects will occasion a growth in the desire of nations for secure national policies and national identities in an age when co-operative global forms of governance are more needed than ever.

No matter what happens now and will happen after tomorrow. This message from EAA, your membership association, is to emphasis the enormous importance of you, our British members, to the EAA – in the past, present and hopefully the future. The singular contribution of our British members to the development and life of EAA, and the significance of British Archaeology globally to World archaeological practice, theory and heritage are acknowledged. Therefore, as President and with the support of the EAA Board, I want to call on you all to work towards a continuing core role within the EAA in the future. And let me add three further considerations about this with the best will of fostering and facilitating this commitment.

As archaeologists we are prepared to learn from what has happened in order to understand what occurs in the future. We have the capacity to learn lessons that will inform and help us in the future.

It is a moment to remember that EAA is about Europe but not just European Union. Somehow, Brexit will help us to foster the pan-European and wider profile of the Association. After all, your country leaves the EU but you do not lose your identity as Europeans. Right now, the 40.1% of our membership belongs to countries out of the EU. This gives a strong sense to our Association. So, just because your country is leaving the EU, you as our members are not leaving the European ‘room’ or leaving EAA. Our concern within EAA now is to continue our relationships as before and build on those. I shall emphasize the need to create collaboration in spite of national chauvinisms.

The theme of the Annual Meeting in Budapest this year is “Networking!”. We will stress the importance of networking at individual and institutional intellectual and collegial levels in order to respond to the divisive nature of much of present day European and global national politics. We must reinforce our links with our members and colleagues across Europe and the world beyond boundaries, frontiers and differences.

This is what EAA has always been about; Archaeology transcends borders and nations and our task as archaeologists is to reflect about the past and the future past that we are contributing to.

Churchill´s words in the parliamentary tribute that he paid Neville Chamberlain come to mind: “History, with its flickering lamp, stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and to kindle with pale gleams the passions of former days”.

Then he came to the key question: “What is the worth of all this?”

So I would ask: what is worth that we as archaeologists are creating and narrating our audiences? Are we really telling a story that helps our societies to avoid the simplistic views that foster nationalism and political narcissism?

Whatever happens, including Brexit and associated dramas, there are ways that we can determine how we can improve and be relevant to a changing world. And there are many ways EAA can help. Our promise is to use our collective intellectual capital for the welfare of our members and the society we serve.

Felipe Criado-Boado
EAA President