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Nationalism, politics, and the practice of archaeology : the case study of Iran

Since the first pillars of the discipline of archaeology were laid in the nineteenth century, archaeologists have been aware of the potential employment of their research for political purposes. Despite the recognition of the role of archaeology in politics, and specifically in the instigation and promotion of different brands of nationalism, there have been few studies that focused on Iran. To fill this lacuna, this thesis aims to examine the close relationship between the rise of nationalism and its impact on the birth and development of Iranian archaeology. It is argued that during different political periods, in particular during the Qajar, Pahlavi and post-Revolutionary Administrations, various aspects of Iranian history and identity were selected to assist the construction of new State-sponsored narratives. The utilisation of archaeological sites to support the competing brands of nationalism promoted by each of these Administrations is analysed in this thesis through the selection of three case studies that represent the Prehistoric (Sialk), pre-Islamic (Persepolis), and Islamic (Friday Mosque of Isfahan) archaeological periods. Following an interpretive analysis of the internalist and externalist dimensions that fostered the foundation and development of Iranian archaeology, it is concluded that the discipline was born out of nationalistic traditions, and remains exploited as a potential instrument of legitimisation. It is further argued that during certain periods of modern Iranian history, the employment of archaeology to authenticate particular aspects of Iranian identity resulted in the institutionalisation of the discipline. In contrast, during periods when authenticity was sought in ‘charismatic leadership’ or ‘populism’, archaeology was cast aside as a pseudoscience to legitimise the ‘tyranny’ of Iranian dynasties or, alternatively, employed for populist projects to assert a particular impression of Iran as the protectorate of Shi’a Muslims across the globe. This thesis aims to demonstrate that it is only through such analyses of the fluid nature of Iranian archaeology and the review of the history of attempts at its politicisation that Iranian archaeologists can begin to address the potential challenges to their discipline and raise caution against the instrumental application of archaeology as a political tool in service of different political administrations and their nationalistic policies and resume a focus on the outstanding research questions and preservation challenges.
Date January 2014
CreatorsDaroogheh-Nokhodcheri, Rana
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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