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Archaeology and the Political Economy of the Past in the European Union

Date and Time: 
Thursday, January 26, 2017. 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center; Building 500, Room 106
Workshop: 
Archaeological Histories and Futures
Meeting Description: 

Archaeological remains and their stewards have been allies in European integration and identity-building since the late 1970s. Based on selection criteria such as ‘European significance’ and ‘European cultural added value’, hundreds of restoration actions, training schools, and archaeological cooperation projects have been supported by the European Union cultural programs. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, policy texts, historical EU budgets and project outcomes, this talk reviews the conditions and effects of this long archaeopolitical relationship. Tracing the EU: s financial and symbolic investment in the idea of a common European heritage back in time, I discuss how this mutual engagement has caused a parallel approach to European belonging in the European Commission, with one side calling upon objects and periods as witnesses of European cultural continuity and the other promoting a more flexible view of heritage. As political agendas of exclusion grow in the 

European Parliament – calling upon “native Europeans” to resist non-Western immigration – the question of which approach will take precedence is of great consequence.

Elisabeth Niklasson is a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford Archaeology Center. She received her PhD in archaeology from Stockholm University in 2016 and her MA from Gothenburg University in 2009. Her upcoming research examines the links between European Union and UNESCO heritage regimes, particularly in relation to the new EU initiative of the European Heritage Label. By approaching funding schemes, political events and bureaucratic practices as sites for heritage making – combining ethnography, discourse- and network analysis – her research explores the tension between an explicitly “EUropean” past and Western ideas of the universal value of heritage.

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