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Title: Politics of the past : archaeology, nationalism and diplomacy in Afghanistan (1919-2001)
Author: Meharry, Joanie
ISNI:       0000 0004 9354 1745
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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Amid the wave of heightened nationalism sweeping across the Middle East in the wake of World War One, Afghanistan gained ‘independence’ from British control of its foreign affairs. Afghan political leaders immediately sought to form a progressive nation-state from a culturally, ethnically and linguistically divided people, while also attempting to assert Afghanistan’s position in the new world order. Archaeology proved to be one means of promoting these political agendas, with the National Museum of Afghanistan and prominent archaeological sites serving as valuable national symbols at home and abroad. Yet as successive Afghan political administrations employed archaeology to promote their nationalist agendas in national politics and diplomacy, archaeology also became a point of contestation between elements of progressive and conservative ideologies at moments of significant political change. In 2001, this conflict culminated in the destruction of the monumental Bamiyan Buddha statues and pre-Islamic collections from the National Museum of Afghanistan. In order to understand the politicization of archaeology in Afghanistan, this study examines how successive nationalist agendas shaped the discipline of archaeology in Afghanistan and, in turn, how the discipline shaped these nationalist agendas in national politics and diplomacy from 1919–2001. The thesis focuses on key case studies, including the National Museum of Afghanistan, Bactria, Bamiyan, Ghazni and Hadda. Drawing from extensive archival materials and interviews collected in Afghanistan and internationally, this thesis contributes to the corpus on the relationship between archaeology and nationalism, as well as heritage destruction, in the Middle East and South Asia. More broadly, it provides insights into the complex role of archaeology in the politics of deeply divided nations.
Supervisor: Sorensen, Marie Louise Stig Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Afghanistan ; Archaeology ; Politics ; Nationalism ; Diplomacy ; History of Afghanistan