Saturday 1 February 2020

Afghan Geniza Texts to be Handled in Oxford?

Bamiyan, destroyed and
 looted by the Taliban
Oxford University has reportedly just started what it terms 'groundbreaking research on newly discovered Afghan documents ca 1100 AD'. This is being done with £2+million of public money awarded through the European Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the 'PersDoc'  (Persian in Documents) project and from May 2020, in the 'Go.Local' project (Going Local in the Perso-Islamic Lands) operating within the framework of the The Khalili (sic) Research Centre at Oxford. The latter project is:
looking for two researchers to join the project team for the ERC-funded ‘Going Local in the Perso-Islamic Lands (GO.LOCAL): Afghan Geniza, Islamisation and Language in the pre-Mongol Islamic East’ project. The project’s focus is medieval writing and material culture in the Islamicate East and its connections with the history of language and multicultural encounters [...] you will examine unstudied or understudied texts from the pre-Mongol Islamicate East, identifying and categorising texts, transcribing and translating documents of different genres, and entering and processing text in a specialist project database [...] as well as developing content for an online course for a wider public on the social history of the Islamicate East [...]  We are looking for someone who 
does not mind working with the controversial Afghan Geniza material and similar documents.

Oxford University has boxloads upon boxloads of Oxyrhynchus papyri fragments lying around on their premises, from where we understand a person or persons as yet unknown wandered off with a whole load of them that recently turned up on the market. Maybe the University would do better to use any money raised on the proper publication and securing of the material they are already in the process of studying before more of it slips onto the market, than branching out to take in more material coming from that market?

This Bonkers Britain online course (sic) 'for a wider public on the social history of the Islamicate East' based on material looted from Afghan caves and dispersed on the antiquities market sounds like a copycat of equally bonkers PAS database of artefacts deriving from collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record of England and Wales. Equally useless and damaging.

Academics handling anything coming from the looting of Afghanistan and illegally smuggled into the global antiquities market give those objects a value, and legitimate and validate the processes of their acquisition and dispersal. Clearly, no ethical scholar should take part in such a process.


The Kinetic Wardrobe said...

I just wanted to clarify that the PersDoc and Go.Local projects are not affiliated with The Khalili Research Centre, but are based at the Faculty of Oriental Studies in Oxford.

Paul Barford said...

Oh, you mean THIS 'Go Local Project'? must be the address of the Kentucky Roasted Chicken fast food kiosk on the University campus I guess.

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