via the Daily Bruin, 12 January 2022: Prof. Stephen Acabado is an example to us all on the nature of community engagement and archaeology.
The Ifugao Archaeological Project began in 2011 as an extension of Acabado’s master’s degree thesis on the antiquity of the Ifugao rice terraces at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. The Bicol Archaeological Project launched later in 2016 at UCLA as a similar study of lowlands in Bicol, a region in the Philippines, and a way for Acabado to give back to the community that raised him, he said.
Acabado leads two projects in the Philippines using an Indigenous archaeological approach – the IAP and the BAP. The IAP and BAP teams aim to work with Ifugao and Bicol communities as co-investigators, rather than as sources of information for the research, Acabado said. Community members generate questions to help guide the direction of the project and produce research that is to their benefit. The research team aims to interpret archaeological and historical data obtained during the projects using local epistemologies and explanatory models, Acabado added.
Margaret Palaghicon Von Rotz, a UCLA alumnus who is Ifugao, said academic relationships with communities are generally transactional – whereby researchers consider their work done after obtaining their desired information – so she was initially skeptical of Acabado’s work in Ifugao. After joining the Ifugao Archaeological Project in 2016, she found comfort in Acabado’s genuine desire to engage with the Ifugao community.