Archaeology as Salvage Operation in the Middle East – Ethics, Politics and Methods

Archaeology as Salvage Operation in the Middle East
Call for participation for conference at the Institute of Advanced Studies on Saturday 10 December 2016: Ever since its beginnings, archaeological fieldwork in the Middle East has often taken the form of a salvage operation in context of development projects and military conflicts that threaten cultural heritage. Construction of dam projects, rural infrastructure projects, political instability and looting operations open doors for archaeologists to work in precarious landscapes, working at a fast pace and with duly adjusted methodologies.

While the ticking clock dictates less than desirable methodologies for surveying and excavation, salvage operations lead to unusually intensive investigation of regions producing a wealth of data, channel unexpected funding into archaeology and heritage conservation, and allow easier acquisition of official permits. The increased scale of development in countries such as Turkey and Lebanon, and the threat of violence in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan has impacted the way in which archaeologists do fieldwork. They inevitably find themselves in politically-charged situations where multiple stakeholders challenge the relationship of the archaeologist to local governments, multi-national companies, local communities and activist groups.

This one-day workshop (on 10 December 2016) at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies invites scholars to consider the ethical, political and methodological issues in archaeological salvage operations. How has this rescue nature of archaeology impacted and shaped archaeological practice in the Middle East? Where does salvage operation locate archaeologists in the political ecologies of the field? The conference will open a platform for real experiences of salvage archaeology on the ground, focusing on the ethics of archaeological salvage work in the context of development with the controversies of ecological impact and human rights violations, while salvage archaeology can be adopted as an allegorical concept for debate more broadly on the methodologies, politics and ethics of archaeological fieldwork in the Middle East.

The conference is co-organised by Laurent Dissard, Junior Research Fellow at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies and Ömür Harmanşah, Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Abstracts can be read here: archaeology-as-salvage-operation-in-the-middle-east-abstracts.