Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Supercilious US Collectors and their Neo-Colonialist 'Coon Caricatures'

"Don't you believe that the Lord made them of one blood with us?" said Miss Ophelia, shortly. "No, indeed not I! A pretty story, truly! They are a degraded race." "Don't you think they've got immortal souls?" said Miss Ophelia, with increasing indignation. "O, well," said Marie, yawning, "that, of course – nobody doubts that. But as to putting them on any sort of equality with us, you know, as if we could be compared, why, it's impossible! (Uncle Tom's Cabin)
One would have thought that such sentiments would be found in today's USA only in rather specific social circles. It seems that related ideas however are still alive in Tumbleweed Town Arizona where the American Committee of Cultural Policy has its office. Take a look at this nonsense, penned by Kate Fitz Gibbon ('Bearing False Witness: The Media, ISIS and Antiquities') where she dismisses the hard evidence of looting of archaeological sites in several regions of the Middle East:
Pockmarked satellite images of cultural heritage sites in Syria and Iraq incontrovertibly show a pandemic of destruction. What these images do not show us is whether any antiquities were found in these holes in the ground, if what was found had monetary value, or where these objects are going. 
Fitz Gibbon has exactly the same orientalist approach to the allegedly 'Stupid Ayrabs' as some of the protagonists of Uncle Tom's Cabin have to 'those people' who because they have darker skin somehow are expected to think and experience life differently. 

I really do not know if Ms FitzGibbon has used a spade much in her life in her Tumbleweed Town backyard, for example to dig a hole for an oil tank, or erect a 600-metre long row of fence posts. My charitable guess is that she has not done very much physical labour of this sort in a warm country. If she had she would hardly be likely to entertain the notion that, however childlike and retarded she stereotypically thinks a group of people are, they'd dig and dig and dig, time and time again, deep wide holes all over a rubble-strewn site, oblivious to the fact that there is nothing there to reward all that hard work. Hard work Ms Fitz Gibbon, show some respect for it. It's easy sitting in a lawyer's office in an air-conditioned office in New Mexico disparaging the brown skinned folk half way round the world and ascribe to them all sorts of totally illogical concepts. If those holes appeared all over a Native American cemetery in New Mexico, would she be so dismissive of the idea that they are pot-diggers holes? Or are US pot diggers in some mysterious way inherently 'different' from the 'Ayrabs'?  I'd draw her attention to the fact that the holes in places like Apamea and Dura Europos are not dug with 'ignorance', you can see the pattern of the digging reflects where artefacts will be found, and keep away from those where they will not (street grid, on top of city walls, beyond the edges of the cemeteries). Those photographs show very clearly (especially to those of us who have some training and experience in aerial photograph interpretation) what is going on.

That, it seems, does not include the spokesperson for an American 'committee' that has pretensions to make 'informed' comment on cultural property policies. Texts like this do not inspire much confidence in their ability to analyse information. The dismissive tone of the ACCP's Ms FitzGibbon should be assigned to the dustbin of misguided online chatterers such as Peter Tompa who thought the holes in Apamea were military 'foxholes'.

 Vignette: The 'Stupid Ayrab' stereotype

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