Nationalism and Archaeology in Europe

Nationalism and Archaeology in Europe

Nationalism and Archaeology in Europe

Nationalism and Archaeology in Europe

Synopsis

In this book, archaeologists from many different European countries have come together to explore the varied relationship between nationalistic ideas and archaeological activity throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The resurgence of nationalism has been a prominent feature of the European political scene in the 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union has given rise to the re-establishment of a sense of ethnic identity for many peoples, while in western Europe the continuing debate about federalization has concentrated attention on questions of individual national identity. This comprehensive examination of a host of fascinating issues will be essential reading for archaeologists but will also interest historians and others studying the interaction between perceptions of the past and the pursuit of nationalistic politics.

Excerpt

Margarita Díaz-Andreu &Timothy Champion

We have all been surprised by the growth of a series of ideologies in recent years that we thought had been definitively buried after the drama of the Second World War. These ideologies now affect the lives of millions of people. At the same time, countries we felt were eternal are now divided, some happily and others as a result of vicious armed conflicts. On the other hand countries that were divided -- in the first place the two Germanies, one of the detonators of the whole process -- have been united under one government. Other countries have radically altered their concept of the state. This, for example, is the case in Spain, which has passed from a centralized unitary definition of government to a pluralist one that accepts other national identities, such as Catalan and Basque, along with Spanish. All of this has been done in the name of nationalism, an ideology virtually censored during almost four decades and which no one felt was useful to reconsider.

Archaeology has just passed through a phase in which the application of mathematical techniques and other methods borrowed from the natural sciences led archaeologists to believe in the scientific objectivity of their subject and in its objectivity in respect to political change. However, events of recent years have shown that this is not the case and, in consequence, comments such as the following have become not infrequent:

I think we should drop the pretence of absolute objectivity. Further, I suggest that drawing on present experience and interests is hardly "unscientific" and that it strengthens, rather than weakens, our work. The connection between present and past is a source of power, the power to offer legitimacy or attack. . . . Rather than condemning those who "pervert" the past to their own political purposes, we should acknowledge that there is no neutral, value-free, or non-political past --y that if we take the present out of the past we are left with a dry empty husk. (Wilk 1985: 319) . . .

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