Together with my colleagues from the University of Bochum, Bärbel Morstadt and Aydin Abar, as well as the University of Leiden, Aris Politopoulos, I am organising a three-day digital conference in 2022 called “West Asia in the Center”. I will be about colonialism in the study and depiction of the past and present of West Asia. We just started our Call for Papers a couple of weeks ago. Here, I want to tell you more about the idea behind the conference.
Why do we need this
For a while now, there is an ongoing debate in different disciplines about decolonisation. This is especially true and important for Archaeology as the profession is rooted in imperialistic endeavours. This is even more true for the Archaeology of ancient West Asia (my speciality). As you might have noticed, I already try to avoid terms like “the Orient” or even “Near East”. These are romanticising and Eurocentric words to describe a part of the world that has suffered and still is suffering under the oppression of Europe and later the U.S.A. People like Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak or Homi K. Bhaba have written extensively about it .
Although decolonisation is already taking place and we are more or less aware now of the roots of Archaeology and our responsibility with it, remnants of old imperialistic behaviour are still present today. Not long ago I reviewed a book by Allison Mickel, which describes that very well . As I have researched in my own PhD, this imperialism (and orientalism) is also part of our pop-culture today. We see them as stereotypes (about the profession or certain cultures). I discussed one example here, where I talked about the imperialism of Indiana Jones. This is why we want to talk about Colonialism in the study of the past and present of West Asia.
How we imagine it
We created three different themes for the conference as a guideline (not a rule):
- Orientalism in the Disciplines of the Past
- and Orientalism in Heritage Spaces
- as well as Orientalism and Media.
We want to discuss not only how Orientalism was used in the past on excavations or publications, but is also used today in pop-culture. We want to create an inclusive and interdisciplinary environment. On the one hand, we want the conference to be diverse. Meaning that not only European or American scholars participate, but rather scholars from West Asia themselves. True, the conference will be in English, but it will also be online. We offer the possibility of pre-recorded lectures with translated subtitles.
Interdisciplinarity on the other hand means, that we do not only want to talk about Colonialism and Orientalism within Archaeology. We also want to talk about museums, media, school and every other aspect, that we even can’t think of. We therefore seek a variety of applicants, that can offer different aspects on the topic.
What we need to do
So for now, we created a website with the Call for Papers. We need to circulate this as far as possible and if you would like to help, that would be very much appreciated. The deadline for application is on the 20th of January, so there is still some time. Depending on the participation, we might even extend. We also searching for funding opportunities to pay for student helpers and the final publication, which ideally should be Open Access.
At some point after the deadline, we will create a programme and I will then come back to this also here on the blog. Meanwhile, if you are interested in participating or know someone who might, please have a look at the website and share the link.