Sunday, 5 October 2014

The "Task" of Archaeology, or Rather what it is not

A series of tweets of American Soldier and archaeologist TommyLivoti ("Archaeological Ops") over the past few weeks culminated yesterday with the exhortation:
"Archaeologists CANNOT work in a vacuum-they must work with the military in a unity of effort to defeat ISIL".
I pointed out "It is not the aim nor task of archaeology (a discipline of the humanities) to "defeat" anyone". Archaeologists do archaeology, the military does what the military does. Although archaeology does not act in a social, intellectual and political vacuum, it is not the aim or task of the discipline of archaeology to bring down (or for that matter prop up) political regimes or act against any specific group. I suspect Captain Livoti did not understand what I was getting at:
that's your opinion. I respect it. Please respect mine and don't impose your worldview on mine.
First of all, it is not really an "opinion", it is a definition of what a discipline does, archaeology per se does not fight world poverty, ebola, capitalism, globalism, industrial pollution, global warming, terrorism, the progressive extinction of the world's wildlife, child abuse, drink-driving, drive-by shootings, police brutality, or anything else. Archaeologists do archaeology. Secondly it is hardly "imposing your worldview on mine" (nor overly disrespectful) to comment on what somebody said, especially when they are trying to redefine the aim and task of a whole discipline in support of one. I see he went on to write in true Godwin's Law fashion:
Anthropology was employed to defeat the Nazis and I support applying it to defeat ISIL.
I do not expect we will get a substantiated expansion of the thesis that "anthropology" was any factor in the Nazi defeat of Feb 1943- May 1945.* Neither do I expect that there will be any development of the idea that the thoughtful utilisation of the discipline of anthropology, even in propaganda, can in some mysterious way bring about the defeat of any political grouping in the Middle East.

* Livoti later tweeted he had in mind the case of Agnès Humbert, adding 'The Musee de l'Homme helped defeat Nazis', but I really do not see the connection.We had street cleaners fighting Nazis in the War, it does not mean their special street cleaning skills won the War.

UPDATE 5th October 2014
OMG. In reply to my clarification "not an "opinion"/"worldview', it is a fact about what archaeology (humanistic discipline) does" we get a whole series from Capt. Livoti:
Not according to me it's not. Just keep doing what you are doing and I'll do what I'm doing.
I don't answer to U and there is no Ministry for Archaeology that has universal authority.
It's a fact that anthropologists and archaeologists have used their skills in the past 2 win wars
I choose to employ my archaeological skill sets to defeat evil.
This guy needs to cool down, stop watching Indiana Jones films and go and talk to metal detectorists, they have a lot in common.

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