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Zoller-Blundell, Christopher

blundell@posteo.de | Doktorand

Christopher Blundell

Christopher Zoller-Blundell
Historisches Institut, Zeitgeschichte

blundell@posteo.de

Inhalt: Biographie | Project Outline

Biographie

1988 Born in Liverpool, United Kingdom
2006-9 BSc Archaeology, University College, University of Durham (First Class Honours)
2009-11 MSc Palaeopatholgy, University College, University of Durham (Distinction)
2011-13 Short Term Study Period, Historisches Seminar Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (1,0)
2012-13 Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft, Asia-Europe Cluster, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Since 2013 Doctoral Fellow, Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

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Project Outline

Working Title: Imperialist Influences versus Internationalist Initiatives: archaeology and power play at the International Museums Office, 1926-45

Principal Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Dirk van Laak, Historisches Institut, Justus-Liebig-Universität, Gießen

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Madeleine Herren-Oesch, Europa Institut, Universität Basel

The sociopolitical history of archaeology is so deeply entwined with that of imperialism that it is almost inseparable. The motifs of classical civilizations, adopted and adapted, adorned European empires until well into the early-twentieth century; the pillars of Greek and Roman temples taken and used to support the presumed cultural superiority of the European powers. Any civilized nation worth its mettle founded a school in Athens, funded excavations in Egypt and Mesopotamia, laid out public gardens decorated with classical sculpture, and opened museums bursting with the excavated treasures of the past. All this, was of course, facilitated and fuelled by those nations' imperialist expansion, opening up new areas and, at the same time, calling for a sense of cultural supremacy, which archaeology could help create. Indeed, by the 19th century it can be said that archaeology had become a cultural tool for the legitimation of imperialism, taking ancient remains from all over the world and fitting them into a Eurocentric paradigm.

In spite of the political role of archaeology in international relations, it was not until the founding of the League of Nations that archaeology became involved with an international political organisation with a mandate from an assembly of sovereign powers. The International Museums Office (IMO), a sub-office of the International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation was founded in 1926 and existed until 1945. The official purpose of the organisation was to foster better relations between the museums of member states, facilitate cooperation in addressing the problems of the art and antiquities black market, and (later) create internationally applicable standards for the practice of archaeology.

This doctoral research will examine the activities of the Paris-based International IMO from the perspective of global history. The office presents a multifaceted view of the manifold entanglements between archaeology and politics, where seemingly neutral disciplinary experts became political functionaries. At the heart of this research is the question of how, against the backdrop of international cultural politics, the IMO functioned as a transnational contact zone between actors and interests. Particular emphasis will be placed upon the little researched International Conference on Archaeological Excavations, held by the IMO in Cairo in 1937, and the turbulent historical context of its happening. It is proposed that this event was instrumentalised by numerous countries and blocs as a tool of cultural politics for legitimating rights, identities and world outlooks. The conference's Final Act, though seemingly progressive, ambiguously lacked any real power, and raises multiple questions as to the intentions behind its writing. It presents a multidimensional case study for examining cultural diplomacy at the point of contact between archaeology and international organisations.

 

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