Otherness in the past and today

Kristian Kristiansen, former EAA President, recently sent me an offprint of a paper on “Who own the past? Reflections on roles and responsibilities” which he published in the 2004 book Archaeologist: Detective and Thinker (pp. 79-86) compiled in honour of Lev Klejn (University of St. Petersburg. ISBN 5-288-03491-5).

As always, Kristian has some interesting points. One of them comes near the end. I cite the relevant passage in full hoping that it might stimulate some discussion! Please send us a comment about your views…

In a world marked by the expansion of new Nationalism, new Nazism and racism, it becomes an essential task for a critical humanism to point out the complexity and discontinuity of history. There are fewer similarities between a Danish Iron Age farmer and a present day farmer than there are between a present day Danish farmer and a Pakistan immigrant. They are both strangers and they are both part of history. But while we gladly integrate Iron Age farmers into our cultural heritage, in spite of their otherness, we are less generous when it comes to the immigrants. However, European prehistory is also the history of our alienation. It is the history of recurring cultural shifts, a multitude of languages and ethnicities, of social and economic transformations that integrated and created new social and cultural entities out of this historical multiplicity.

Is he right? If yes, what are the consequences for the way we present the cultural heritage?

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