Archaeological entanglements: people, places, and politics of archaeology in Turkey
Ozguner, Nimet Pinar
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In this dissertation, I illustrate how the governance of archaeology in Turkey from the beginning of the modern state until the present day has shaped knowledge about the past. I analyze development plans, laws, repatriation efforts, UNESCO World Heritage Site nominations, and the distribution of research permits as tools of governmental policies. I also investigate educational structures to demonstrate how state policies have shaped public understanding of the value of archaeology. In its earliest years, as part of its nation building efforts, the Republic encouraged research on cultural diffusion at major Bronze Age sites. Witnessing the use of similar approaches to justify racist claims during World War II, archaeologists in Turkey distanced themselves from political agendas. Throughout the 1950s, practitioners focused solely on studying the human past without privileging other agendas. From the late 1960s - 1990s, state policies emphasized archaeology's touristic value, treating cultural heritage as an economic good. This meant a continued focus on impressive architectural monuments found primarily at Classical sites. Requests to investigate other eras and cultures, including Islamic and Turkish sites as well as regions with multi-ethnic pasts such as southeastern and eastern Anatolia and the Black Sea coast, were limited to restoration and rescue projects. After 2002, the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) government continued to link archaeology with tourism via World Heritage nominations. It also moved deliberately to use archaeology as a tool of political authority by limiting permits and funds to certain sites and by connecting foreign research permits with strong-arm repatriation tactics. While the number of excavations in previously under-explored areas of the country increased, government policies positioned archaeological sites as strategic chips in international diplomacy. In today's Turkey, archaeology is both an economic and a diplomatic commodity. I demonstrate how the ideal of the discipline as the scientific study of the human past has been exploited to serve political ends. This study serves as both a full historical analysis and also a cautionary tale, illustrating how powerful forces can frame, occlude, and ultimately undermine our collective ability to understand the past.
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