Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 13: Evil. (i)

Joseph Stalin in 1934 
"Dictators have long realized the ideological importance of the past and have sought to wield archaeology as a political tool. There are numerous examples of this, and they have been well described and analyzed: German archaeology under Hitler, for instance, or the Soviet-style archaeology that formed under Stalin. In each case, the past was deliberately and systematically manipulated. Sometimes the material record itself was distorted or destroyed (as has also occurred in recent years in the Balkans and Middle East). but more often archaeological concepts and theoretical positions were appropriated, some being privileged over others. As it advances under totalitarian dictatorship, this process—the official, often legislated promotion of one version of the past to the exclusion of others—may be disastrous for archaeology, and for some archaeologists it becomes deadly. Stalin murdered or enslaved eighty-five percent of Russian archaeologists between 1930 and 1934."
Michael L. Galaty and Charles Watkinson, The Practice of Archaeology under Dictatorship, in: Archaeology Under Dictatorship (eds, Galaty and Watkinson), Springer, 2006, p. 2. [in-line refs. to all statements removed]

Detail from "Ectoplasm", Bill Donovan, New York, watercolour and ink on paper (in my collection: gift from the artist, 2009)

"If not controlled and manipulated, the past is always one of the biggest enemies of any totalitarian ideology. The plot was divided into three phases: 1) seduction, 2) temptation, and 3) "we've got you!" phase. The hook was to publish enthusiastic news about the successes of Polish archaeologists and subsequently to identify the most gifted among those who took the bait, as the competitive exam to enter the faculty of archaeology was extremely demanding. Quickly arrived the second phase of the plot: the temptation. Graduates were offered a perspective to achieve their dreams, to plan professional careers and to reach a relatively prestigious social status. Initially it seemed great but finally it turned out not be free of charge. The more one progressed in research, the more difficult was to secure funds. The first "glass ceiling" appeared. To get through it seemed simple - a member of the Communist Party (often a faculty member) would suggest: "Why won't you join the Communist Party? It is not a big deal really and, after all, you owed it to our Party, which already helped you so much." This is when the third "we've got you!" phase materialized. It was the crucial moment that the regime counted on a lot. Sometimes the plot was successful, but in majority of situations it didn't produce the wished effects."
Andrzej Boguszewski (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives) The massive corruption of clever minds, TAG2010: 32nd annual meeting of the Theoretical Archaeology Group, Bristol, 17th-19th Dec 2010: Archaeology under communism: political dimensions of archaeology.
All of the above can stand on their own. No commentary is needed.

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