Accepted Papers:

Knowledge production and local communities: socio-politics and alternative accounts of the past  

Author:

Tera Pruitt (University of Cambridge)

Paper Short Abstract:

The production of knowledge is a particularly contested space when local community needs mix with standards of archaeological practice. This paper presents an unusual and very contested case of archaeological practice: the Bosnian Pyramids. It addresses how a case of alternative archaeology is satisfying very important socio-political needs in a small community in Bosnia, and it addresses very important concerns and issues this situation raises about professional archaeological practise--both in our own excavation and publicity practises, as well as how we engage with local communities and worldwide alternative archaeological communities.

Paper long abstract:

The production of knowledge is a particularly contested space when local community needs mix with standards of archaeological practice. This paper looks at the production of archaeological knowledge in relation to alternative archaeological communities as well as local 'on-site' communities. Alternative claims to the past are complex social processes which originate from intricate social interactions and contexts, on local and global scales. This paper focuses on a study of the Bosnian pyramids, a case where one man's alternative archaeological vision of the past has become a preferred account of history for many people in Bosnia. Most professional archaeologists have been quick to dismiss the claims of man-made pyramids in the small town of Visoko, Bosnia. However, this account thrives because it serves different symbolic, socio-political and economic purposes in local and worldwide communities, and it is intimately attached to, and working within, larger conditions of politics and performance in post-war Bosnia. The questions that emerge from this scenario are difficult. Who has the right to Bosnia's past? To use Bosnia's past? Distressingly, this scenario forces us to confront the possibility that a contested and perhaps imagined site like the Bosnian pyramids might be worth more than real archaeology. This site is an economic and social asset to different communities, with different values for different reasons. For many people, the question is not whether or not the pyramids are real, but rather if people will come to see it, spend money in the tourist shops and use it as a cultural and economic artefact. For others, the site's very existence questions and challenges fundamental ideas about government, control and academic authority. This case also raises important concerns and issues about professional archaeological practise---both in our own excavation and publicity practises, as well as how we engage with local communities and alternative communities.

panel P19
Ruins: perception, reception and reality