Archeology settles on indigenous land: S. Truini, The Handmaiden of Settler-Colonialism: Archaeology and Heritage in Silwan, East Jerusalem, PhD dissertation, University of Exeter, 2020


Abstract: This thesis makes a case for archaeology as a technology of settler-colonial domination, based on the in-depth study of one of the most renowned cases of contentious deployment of archaeology for political purposes, the Palestinian village of Silwān in Occupied East Jerusalem. Relying on decolonial theory and methodologies of research, this thesis proposes a radical deconstruction of the discourse about the politics of the past in Palestine, arguing for Zionist deployments of the past for political goals as being not nationalist, as the literature maintains, but settler-colonialist and aimed at the elimination of Palestinians from collective consciousness. This research also proposes a theory of affordances to articulate the relationship between archaeology and political power, reversing the common assumption that the latter univocally exploits the former. Instead, the focus on this research are the unquestioned practices of archaeology and heritage conservation, in which Israeli settler-colonial power finds a ready-made set of supposedly a-political practices through which advance its political goals. The idea that excavations are the most legitimate method to know the past in its material form, and that the antiquities should be object of special measures for protection from decay coincide with settler-colonialism’s interest in land and with its practices of surveillance of the colonised. These nodes of intersection emerged clearly from ethnographic fieldwork through the impacts that they have on the Palestinian residents of Silwān. Through the lens of their narrations, archaeology and heritage conservation emerge as part and parcel of the perpetration of settler-colonial violence.

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