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We discuss the important – but rarely scrutinized – role of archaeology in the constitution of Greece and Israel as contemporary crypto-colonized states, defined by Herzfeld as countries with a strong national sentiment that serve as buffer zones and whose political independence is accompanied by massive economic dependency. We elaborate on what this crypto-colonizing process means for the two societies.
We explore the inherently racialized premises of colonial–national modernity and of imperial and national archaeologies, juxtaposing them with the contradictions and fluidity inherent in “Greek” and “Israeli” identities. This is followed by a brief critique of the reductionist, and often self-serving, roll-out of ancient DNA studies and of their political co-optation.
In this chapter we discuss the origins of Greek and Israeli archaeology in 19th-century concerns that accompanied European colonialism, the relation of archaeology to emerging Hellenic and Zionist nationalisms, and the enduring impact of imperial structures in 20th-century national archaeologies. We conclude with a brief consideration of the place of archaeology in the long history of Jewish–Hellenic entanglement, especially with respect to concepts of the idealized body.
In view of the enduring colonial and nationalist legacies that permeate current archaeological practice, we reflect here on ways to reimagine archaeology as decolonizing action. What is it in archaeology itself ‒ in its origins, in its methods, in the way archaeologists think and act ‒ that must be reimagined and redesigned?
In this chapter, we explore the concept of purity and the processes of purification in their archaeological as well as broader national expressions. The discussion touches on aesthetic and religious conceptions of a pure, sacralized past, on the removal of living people from archaeological landscapes, and on the modernist separation of past from present, science from culture, and of the rational from the affective.
A brief recapitulation of the main themes of our dialog, and a reminder of the affective and sensorial power of the archaeological and its materials, and of their potential to be both unsettling and untimely.
Archaeology, Nation, and Race is a must-read book for students of archaeology and adjacent fields. It demonstrates how archaeology and concepts of antiquity have shaped, and have been shaped by colonialism, race, and nationalism. Structured as a lucid and lively dialogue between two leading scholars, the volume compares modern Greece and modern Israel – two prototypical and influential cases – where archaeology sits at the very heart of the modern national imagination. Exchanging views on the foundational myths, moral economies, and racial prejudices in the field of archaeology and beyond, Hamilakis and Greenberg explore topics such as the colonial origins of national archaeologies, the crypto-colonization of the countries and their archaeologies, the role of archaeology as a process of purification, and the racialization and 'whitening' of Greece and Israel and their archaeological and material heritage. They conclude with a call for decolonization and the need to forge alliances with subjugated communities and new political movements.
In his 2017 masterful film Happy End, the European auteur Michael Haneke returns to some of his favourite themes by portraying the life of a contemporary dysfunctional, white bourgeoisie family in Calais, France, struggling to deal with the skeletons in their cupboard. They are also mostly oblivious to the thousands of migrants from the Global South attempting to negotiate yet another borderland and cross into Britain. In the final scene, a group of them bursts uninvited into the family's engagement party. This classic Hanekean tense moment reminds us that contemporary global migration, rather than being a novel and unexpected ‘crisis’, amounts to an unavoidable return, a return of the oppressed and the colonised; it is a moment in the unfinished histories of white European global domination. In that sense, rather than being a ‘migration crisis’, it can be better described as a reception crisis (cf. Christopoulos 2016), a crisis of the contemporary nation states in the Global North who find it impossible to come to terms with their own histories.
The image-based discourse on clay figurines that treated them as merely artistic representations, the meaning of which needs to be deciphered through various iconological methods, has been severely critiqued and challenged in the past decade. This discourse, however, has largely shaped the way that figurines are depicted in archaeological iterations and publications, and it is this corpus of images that has in turn shaped further thinking and discussion on figurines, especially since very few people are able to handle the original, three-dimensional, physical objects. Building on the changing intellectual climate in figurine studies, we propose here a framework that treats figurines as multi-sensorial, affective and dynamic objects, acting within distinctive, relational fields of sensoriality. Furthermore, we situate a range of digital, computational methods within this framework in an attempt to deprive them of their latent Cartesianism and mentalism, and we demonstrate how we have applied them to the study of Neolithic figurines from the site of Koutroulou Magoula in Greece. We argue that such methodologies, situated within an experiential framework, not only provide new means of understanding, interpretation and dissemination, but, most importantly, enable researchers and the public to explore the sensorial affordances and affective potential of things, in the past as well as in the present.
On 13 November 2017, Yannis Hamilakis, Felipe Rojas, and several other archaeologists at Brown University engaged in a conversation with Alain Schnapp about his life and career. Hamilakis and Rojas were interested in learning about how Schnapp’s early academic and political interests intersected with the history of Classics and classical archaeology in France, Europe and elsewhere in the world, and also about the origins and current aims of Schnapp’s work on the history of archaeology and antiquarianism and the cross-cultural history of ruins. Schnapp and his interlocutors began by discussing Schnapp’s formative years and the intersections between archaeology and politics in mid-20th-century France. Their conversation turns to the role of individual scholars, specifically classicists and archaeologists, in the momentous social events in Paris in 1968. The final part of the dialogue concerns Schnapp’s contributions to the history of archaeology and the possibilities of engaging in the comparison of antiquarian traditions.
And now what? This anxious question torments many of us in the current socio-political moment: that of Trumpism and Brexit; of resurgent xenophobia and racism expressed through election results and policies around Europe; and of the return of fascism and Nazism. It is this moment that has prompted González-Ruibal et al. (above) to call for a new, politicised archaeology. In so doing, they urge archaeologists to abandon the soothing liberal but ineffective embrace of communities and the public. They also argue against identitarian politics and the discourse of apolitical and abstract multiculturalism. I am in broad agreement with them, and called some years ago for a shift from ethics to politics, and for an explicit, public political stance (Hamilakis 2007). If the politicisation of archaeology was important 10 years ago, it is much more urgent now.