What are the Black Trowel Collective Microgrants?
We are a collective of archaeologists (from PhD students to faculty members) committed to the active support of archaeology students from working-class and historically looted communities who are both regularly excluded by traditional scholarship and academic programs, or who require more economic support than those resources cover. We have been inspired by Sportula, which is an initiative supporting Classics students, and we have blatantly copied much of their text. Support them too!
We recognize that academia in its current form is ethnicity, class, ability, and gender-biased and discourages or even effectively forbids minorities and people from working classes from attending programs by enforcing prohibitively high tuition fees, expensive mandatory field schools and ignoring the often harsh reality of these students’ lives outside of the academic bubble. All too often, we and our students have to work double shifts to get the extra money needed to buy a book, attend an excavation project, pay rent or internet bills to have access to online university materials from home, or even just buy a proper meal so that they do not have to attend the next class on an empty stomach! It is our goal to erode these barriers to make them more permeable for the next generation of archaeologists.
So what are you doing about it?
We provide microgrants from $5 to $300 (or £ or €)–no questions asked–to archaeology graduate and undergraduate students who need it. We can also work to find you larger amounts of money and/or connect you with mentorship for non-monetary needs (e.g. if you need an archaeologist from your racial/ethnic group or class background to talk something over with, or if you have an issue impacting your academic career that you don’t feel comfortable letting your department know about, or even if you need access to a certain journal/manuscript, etc).
How do these microgrants work?
Simply apply through our application form and we will do our best to get the requested amount to you as soon as possible. You don’t have to explain yourself–we get that our lives can be complicated and strongly believe that we as financially marginalized people are the best arbiters of what we need and the experts on our own lives. We reject the all too common pattern in academia (and everywhere) that demands historically underrepresented and working-class people “prove” their worthiness in a system that ignores structural inconsistencies in students’ backgrounds or expose/perform their need and trauma for some committee in order to get the money that we require.
Our goal is to start our relationship with our grantees through trust, instead of with an assumption that they are lying (i.e. through proving need). Minority and working-class students are already forced to navigate these types of distrustful relationships with their institutions while their financially comfortable peers are not.
So why is there a field asking me to provide comments?
This is a totally non-mandatory field and you are free to skip it. It will have no impact on your request. It is there to give us an idea of the most pressing needs of students and help us evolve this initiative accordingly. But again, and we can’t stress this enough, you don’t have to explain yourself.
Where does the money come from? How is it managed? Are you a charity?
No, this is a mutual aid initiative from people who are committed to solidarity. We work on a donation basis from other people who also believe in solidarity. Keep this in mind when you consider your request, but also don’t be shy to ask for what you need! If you need an extra $100 to attend an excavation, $40 to apply for a workshop or to buy a textbook, $20 to cover this month’s train/bus tickets to get to the university, $300 to keep from being evicted, or $40 for child care to get through a final paper, there is no wrong ask. Again, this is not restricted to only US-residents.
The funds are managed by all of us in the microgrant working group so that we have horizontal accountability to each other. This resolves the issue of individuals in control of funds abusing that position. We will publish quarterly posts here and through Patreon about donations that have come in and have been distributed.
Who do you help?
Any archaeology student (graduate or undergraduate) who needs it! Students of color and students without parental/family support or who lack access to other forms of financial aid by virtue of being undocumented etc. to the front!
How often can students come back for funds?
We trust that you know best how to manage your finances. In order to better share amongst those who need help, we can’t act as a monthly income source for students, but if you apply for funds and need help a few months later, please apply again, and then again when you need us next. We want to help get you through your program. We believe that you deserve to be here and that financial hardships should not drive you out.
How are grants prioritized?
We distribute first-come, first-serve, unless there is an urgent request that is communicated to us (i.e. eviction notice, book fines leading to ejection from your program). Currently, we are centering requests from Black students, so if you feel comfortable sharing that information with us, please do in the comment form.
Do I have to pay it back?
Resoundingly no. But once you are financially stable, if you are able to commit to some form of mutual aid and share with the archaeology students who are still struggling, whether it’s $5 a year or $50 dollars a month, it would be greatly appreciated.
Why are you doing this?
As we said, we believe in undercutting the academic walls built to exclude minorities and working-class students. As anarchists, we put solidarity and mutual aid to the fore.
Who can I contact if I have more questions, or want to get involved?
Feel free to leave us a note through the contact page, or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
How can I help?
Solidarity takes many forms. If you can, donate through Patreon, or PayPal (email@example.com). If not, share this initiative with others, students in need, or people who can contribute in other ways. If you have ideas of how we can have a more meaningful impact let us know!
Isn’t this like Sportula?
Yes! In fact, they were our inspiration. Like our comrades over at Sportula and Sportula Europe, we’re concerned with how economic barriers lead to a less inclusive academic field. We discussed our mutual aid project with them and are working as comrades to build a more inclusive study of the past.
Why the Black Trowel Collective?
The Black Trowel Collective was formed in 2016 by a group of archaeologists following a workshop on anarchism within archaeology. See more, including a manifesto, on our Blog page.
Who are you?
The Black Trowel Collective is a multiethnic collective of archaeologists from around the world. Not all members are comfortable with disclosing their membership, as they are under authoritarian regimes or have other considerations in play. The Microgrants subgroup draws from the larger Black Trowel Collective; current members who chose to disclose their identities include Dr Alexander Aston, Dr Lewis Borck, Dr Sara Gonzalez, Dr Colleen Morgan, and Dr Aris Politopoulos.
How can I join the Black Trowel Collective?
Thank you for your interest! As a collective we have found anarchism to be both personally and politically meaningful. Our members are diverse in their understanding and implementation of anarchism within their lives. That said, we are…anarchists.
While different threads of anarchism exist, a common element uniting us is a distrust of hierarchy and vertical/institutionalized power. We seek to dismantle these in various ways that bring our theoretical positions in alignment with our everyday lives (e.g., community organizing, direct action). Anarchists are generally unloved by people with power, have been threatened at all levels of government and are portrayed as naive, overly violent and/or simply chaotic for the sake of chaos. Indeed, many of us have suffered professionally by being openly anarchist. The most “open” members of our collective have relatively secure positions or have been “out” as anarchists for so long that they no longer know how to be otherwise!
There are collective members that are precarious, and we are doing our best to protect their participation in our collective and maintain a space of trust and care within the collective. Sadly we cannot offer complete reassurances that your identity will not be ascertained at some point. In short, joining an anarchist collective may negatively impact aspects of your life and/or career in ways that are not immediately clear.
To this end, we ask you to ask yourself…are you an anarchist? If the answer is an obvious and emphatic YES (“I’ve been organizing for years, you gatekeeping assholes!” “I have a Kropotkin and Parsons tattoo over my heart!”), please do get in touch. We have an onboarding process that will match you up with a buddy and we can go from there.
We understand that there are many people who are anarcho-adjacent–those who have been deeply involved in social justice actions or labor organizing but may not necessarily be fully immersed in the literature and philosophy of anarchism. We welcome you and your desire to learn and participate. For those of you who may be unsure if anarchism is for you or if you even want to be in a collective, you may want to investigate your options. Many local groups, in the end, may have more personal meaning and direct impact. Have you checked out your local Food Not Bombs? They’re an anarchist mutual aid group with established success within communities. Have you read about anarchism and anarchism within archaeology? We are very happy to help out the anarcho-curious with our Manifesto and our anarchist archaeology bibliography. There are lots of online anarchist resources like whatisanarchism.org, CrimethInc, and the Anarchist Library for those who want to help out with mutual aid, but aren’t sure about anarchism
We say all of this not wanting to define a standard of what an anarchist should be. Rather, we want to make sure that everyone knows what they are getting into. Given the assumptions and backlash many of our members have faced by being anarchists, we are very concerned about maintaining privacy/secrecy and fostering a supportive and safe environment for all of our members. If you decide to join the Black Trowel Collective, we expect that you respect current members’ desire for privacy/secrecy while also participating behind the scenes when we need help organizing.