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Klairi Gianniri

Klairi Gianniri has a background in Cultural Communication and Technology (University of Aegean, Lesvos) and in Social and Cultural Anthropology (Freie Universität, Berlin).She holds an MA in Museum Studies (Department of History and Archaeology, University of Athens) and her on going PhD, in the same department, focuses on the public archaeology of mountain and remote communities. She has participated in national and international research projects and archaeological excavations. In recent years, she is leading the archaeological ethnography project in Anatoli region of East Crete.

Politics on a small scale: Archaeological ethnography as a lens of understanding community politics

Politics in archaeology is usually associated with grand narratives, rather than relationship networks within local or community context. Although, it may seem to be a neutral act to study how a small community is being affected by archaeological research, such activity carries profound political effects and implications. The aim of this paper is to shed light on these implications through the process of archaeological ethnography and the role of the researcher as a mediator of the collective past. Over the last two decades, the role of archaeology in politics, and politics in archaeology has been under extended research. It is now increasingly realised that archaeology, as it is known and being practiced in the West, often played a significant role in promoting colonial and nationalistic agendas. Greece, in particular, provides such an example, offering a complex case where colonialism and nationalism have worked in unison to shape the contours of Greek archaeology (Hamilakis 2016, Hamilakis 2008:274). Despite the fact that the colonial heritage of the discipline and its neocolonial present have been exposed and critiqued, the vast majority of archaeologists does not seem to be fully conscious that it acts politically in various scales. Furthermore, it often goes unnoticed that politics and archaeology go beyond grand narratives of nationhood, and extend into everyday matters, such as relatively small but vital functions of a local community (Lennox & Richardson 2016). The above issues will be discussed in my presentation, which is based on my doctoral research in a small and remote community, at the mountain village of Anatoli. Since 2012, the archaeological excavations of the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens in several neighbouring sites, and the "invasion" of a large group of archaeologists to the village's life provided an excellent opportunity for an archaeological ethnography project on the complex relationships between archaeologists, antiquities and the local community. The main objective of the project was to gather the community's opinion, by conducting semi-structured face-to-face interviews, and to design a public archaeology action model based on it. The tracing of the politics within the community, where not initially included within the research's objectives. However, the strong political issues lying behind the relationships of the groups involved, appeared during the investigation. Through our field research, it became clear that the practice of archaeological ethnography itself is a twoway political act. By sharing its stories, the community becomes a social agent of its own history and its own archaeology in the present, and at the same time the researcher elaborates further in his/her understanding of the past, by reconstructing the complex network of community's relationships. Acknowledging the entanglement of politics at any aspect of archaeological practice, this paper intends to show that the political agendas of the various stakeholders involved may affect both the archaeological research work and the perception of the local communities about their cultural heritage, and consequently their identity in the present. Finally, examples of the stakeholder's subgroups and their power dynamics will be discussed and analysed.

 

 

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