Monumentalising the past, archaeologies of the future
Felicia Hughes-Freeland (SOAS)
Penelope Dransart (University of Aberdeen)
Wills 3.32
Start time:
8 April, 2009 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel explores the use of archaeological sites and materials in nationalist, ethnic and regional discourses about the past from perspectives focusing on a local or state-wide scale. How do protagonists monumentalize the past and appropriate its power for future action?

Long abstract:

We invite contributors to present original case materials from different societies to analyse how archaeological sites are used in nationalist, ethnic and regional discourses about the past. This panel will consider sites of different scales, and recognise the importance of local claims on monuments as well as grander state appropriations. Borobodur, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge loom large in national imaginations. But locally based activism enables protagonists to engage in political, legal, ethical and economic pursuits that can challenge or compete with national aspirations. The application of Dirks's (1992) analysis of culture and colonialism to the historical context in which archaeological interpretations are produced provides an opportunity to investigate the public presentation of archaeological sites and excavated finds as housed in museums. De Certeau's (1988) concept of 'the writing of history' is also relevant here, as is Taussig's (2004) undermining of monumentalizing notions. The kinds of contestation that have been provoked and the conception of heritage places as shared spaces with multiple users are at issue for this panel. Can the study of the practical conditions under which archaeological interpretations were devised help create archaeologies for the future which avoid the trap of timelines that have been narrativized as constant forward movement? Is it possible, as Errington (1998) proposed, to problematize the nationalist appropriations of 'progressivist time' (in Europe) and 'hierarchical' space (in Asia), as well as conflations of time and space (in the Andes), to devise new approaches to understand how archaeology produces localised meanings and practices?