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Book: Archaeology, Politics and Islamicate Cultural Heritage in Europe

Chapter: 2. Shooting Ourselves in the Foot: A Personal Take on the Political

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.36071


The discipline of archaeology has a long history of remaining silent about the political, in the name of objectivity. In spite of repeated pleas for us to engage more meaningfully with public dialogues that use our evidence, the majority of academic archaeologists remain wary of doing so, lest we face accusations of bias. Yet the perceived neutral ‘backdrop’ to European archaeology serves a particular agenda around what Europe is, and who should be included in (and excluded from) it. In an idea of Europe that has been constructed largely in opposition to an ‘Islamic East’, this means that Islamicate archaeology and cultural heritage must always be framed as Other. In this scenario, the ‘silent violence’ of academics is in fact deeply political, as it contributes to the maintenance of a status quo that has little to do with past realities, and obscures their true complexity, impoverishing
our understanding of the past itself, and diluting its relevance to the present day.

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