Location of Repository

The "war on terror" and the military-archaeology complex: Iraq, ethics, and neo-colonialism

By Yannis Hamilakis

Abstract

The archaeological response to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq is often portrayed as a crusade to rescue antiquities, destroyed either directly by the military action itself or indirectly by the looting of archaeological sites and museums. I argue in this paper that this narrative is awfully inadequate, and masks the ethical and political dimensions at the core of this historical episode. I contend that, in their often well-intended attempts to rescue antiquities, most archaeologists involved have projected a professionalized, apolitical and abstract response, devoid of the social and political context, and based on the fetishisation of a narrowly and problematically defined archaeological record. I argue further that the increasing collaboration of many archaeologists with the invading militaries and occupation authorities since 2003, assisted by the “cultural turn” especially within the US military, have laid the foundations for an emerging military-archaeology complex. I trace the contours of this phenomenon by examining various archaeological and museum discourses and practices. This new development (with historical resonances that go as far back as the 18th century, if not earlier) is linked directly with the ontology and epistemology of archaeology, and deserves further close scrutiny and analysis. The thesis advanced here does not advocate inaction and withdrawal in situations of warfare, but a critical engagement that safeguards the autonomy of the scholar; critiques the political agendas and power structures of contemporary warfare; deconstructs its discursive basis and its ideological overtones; and shows its catastrophic consequences for people and things alike, past and present. <br/

Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.soton.ac.uk:156491
Provided by: e-Prints Soton

Suggested articles

Preview

Citations

  1. (2008). A Case Study in the Military Occupation of an Archaeological site. In Of the Past, for the Future: Integrating Archaeology and Conservation, edited by
  2. All They Understand is Force: Debating Culture in Operation Iraqi Freedom. doi
  3. and the Political Present. doi
  4. Anthropology? The New
  5. Archaeological Ethics and the People of the Past. In The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice, edited by doi
  6. Archaeologies of the Middle East: Critical Perspectives. doi
  7. Astray? Ethics and the SAA. In The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice, edited by doi
  8. (2003). Could Threaten Iraqi Heritage.
  9. Culturally Aware. The Washington Times,
  10. Embedded Archaeology: An Exercise in Self-Reflection. In The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq, doi
  11. From Ethics to Politics. In Archaeology and Capitalism: From Ethics to Politics, edited by doi
  12. (2008). From the President: Tell it to the Marines…Archaeology 58(6) (available at: http://www.archaeology.org/0511/etc./president.html; accessed 18
  13. Governmental Agencies and the Protection of Cultural Property in Times of War.
  14. (2003). http://www.archaeology.org/online/interviews/bogdanos/; accessed 25
  15. In The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq, doi
  16. Iraq Beyond the Headlines: History, Archaeology and War. World Scientific, doi
  17. La trahison des arche ´ologues? Archaeological practice as intellectual activity in postmodernity. doi
  18. (2008). Occupation in Iraq. New York (report available on-line at www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/occupation/report;
  19. Past, Present and Future Applications. doi
  20. Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War. doi
  21. Stewardship and the Record: An Ethical Crisis for Archaeology. Public Archaeology 3:104–111. doi
  22. Tadmir al turath al hadhari al iraqi (in Arabic; The Destruction of Iraqi Cultural
  23. The ‘‘Old West’’ in the Middle East: U.S. Military Metaphors in Real and Imagined Indian Country. doi
  24. The Archaeological Heritage of Iraq in Historical Perspective. doi
  25. The Causalities of War: the Truth About the Iraq Museum. doi
  26. The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, doi
  27. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. doi
  28. The Identification and Protection of Cultural Heritage During the Iraq Conflict: A Peculiarly English Tale. Antiquity 79:1–11.
  29. The Languages of Archaeology. doi
  30. The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past. The Oriental Institute,
  31. The Promises and Perils of Stewardship. In Embedding Ethics, edited by
  32. The Rush to the Intimate: Counterinsurgency and the Cultural Turn.
  33. The Site of Babylon Today. In Babylon: Myth and Reality, doi
  34. Ways Have Artists, Academics and Cultural Institutions Responded to the US-led Invasion and Occupation of Iraq? Response to a Questionnaire. October 123:119–121.
  35. Whose World and Whose Archaeology? The Colonial Present and the Return of the Political. doi
  36. Worst Looting May be in Remote Parts of Iraq. Washington Post 12(June).

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.