The Archaeology of Knowledge in the United States: Classicism and Orientalism in the Excavation of the Athenian Agora
The professionalization of archaeology and the systematization of institutional mechanisms rendered power to those who possessed the material means to articulate a discourse which served the needs of a specific society by staying aloof or even indifferent to the needs and the history of another. I will argue that American classical archaeology, as it had been articulated and reflected both in the workfield and in the museum has rendered the histories of the people who produced the archaeologist's subject irrelevant, a practice which the last couple decades has been seriously questioned and has generated a multiplicity of discourses opposing its credibility, while also marginalizing the importance of subsequent cultures that inhabited the land. The subject becomes all too relevant if we consider current phenomena such as the new developments towards a more multi-national perspective in western European archaeology under the most recent pressures for articulating a European identity or the manipulation of archaeological data by various ethnic groups in the Caucasus region after the weakening of Soviet Union, or the emphasis that archaeology has placed on ethnic groups, versus the state, after the division of former Yugoslavia. The task seems to be to dismantle the great metaphysical and rhetorical structure, the architecture of discourse erected in the name of a conserved past, not in order to discard the contents, but in order to rescue them, reinscribe their meaning. By definition the past cannot be present and yet traces of the past surround us. The past is both completed and still living, but in concentrating on the time of the past the time of archaeology tends to be forgotten, i.e. archaeology as social practice and personal experience which takes up people's time in the present.
Keywords: Sociology of knowledge, National and cultural identity, Collective memory
Ms. Despina Lalaki
PhD candidate, Sociology Department, Graduate Faculty. New School University