War, Politics and Archaeology

One of the ambitions of this blog is to publicize and further discuss the reviews published in the European Journal of Archaeology.

In issue 9 (1), Susan Pollock of Binghamton University, USA, reviewed these two volumes:

Benjamin R. Foster, Karen Polinger Foster and Patty Gerstenblith, Iraq Behind the Headlines: History, Archaeology, and War. (Series on the Iraq War and its Consequences 2, Singapore: World Scientific, 2005, 277 pp., hbk, ISBN 981 256 476 4, pbk, 981 256 379 2)

Magnus Bernhardsson, Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005, 327 pp., hbk, ISBN 0 292 70947 1)

This is obviously a timely topic and we are grateful to Susan Pollock for contributing a very interesting essay. Among other things, she points out that:

“[p]olitical conflict and war have a way of galvanizing public concern for archaeology. It may be a measure of archaeologists’ continuing unwillingness to engage in a committed fashion with non-professional audiences that we are usually left playing catch-up at times when we would most like to have members of the public rallying to protect archaeological sites, artefacts, and museums. At those moments, we wake up to the realization that few non-archaeologists know why archaeological remains should be protected, and those who do are often interested for all the wrong reasons.

The two books reviewed here both contribute in important ways to an understanding of archaeology in Iraq in the context of the recent USA-led invasion of that country.”

The discussion on issues such as these will continue in many places, among them the 6th World Archaeological Congress in Dublin next summer (29th June to 4th July 2008). Susan Pollock is involved in co-organising one of its main themes, dealing with Archaeologists, War and Conflict: Ethics, Politics, Responsibility.

The full review has been published as: Susan Pollock (2006) Review essay: War, Politics and Archaeology. European Journal of Archaeology 9 (1), 131-134.

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