Rafi Greenberg on the “Universe of Denial” in Jerusalem Archaeology

City of DavidIn past interactions with this blog, archaeologists from Tel es-Safi (identified with biblical “Gath”) have expressed difficulty in understanding how their excavations contribute to a discourse which sustains Israeli hegemony over the land while it suppresses or silences Palestinian claims. See posts from this blog here and here (and note the perplexity shown by Aren Maeir, in the second post and comments section, that scientific work could have a political dimension), and the post from the Sheffield Biblical Studies blog here.

In a new article in Bible and Interpretation, Raphael Greenberg, Associate Professor in Archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv, sets out a clear and forceful criticism of the “universe of denial” in which “archaeologists make believe that their work – which in fact touches the very roots of identity, the very fabric of collective memory – has no bearing on the real world”:

Archaeologists must take a stand regarding the identity of the affected community. The present excavators in ancient Jerusalem consider their work relevant to their own community, but not to that in whose back and front yards they are digging, i.e. the Palestinian inhabitants of the Old City and nearby villages. They prefer to see only a distant past, thus helping their political sponsors imagine an Arab-free Jerusalem. In such a setting, the very act of talking about the past has to be decolonized. If ethical practice demands that archaeologists enter into a meaningful dialogue with the local community, then we surely must avoid settler and government agendas and discourses like the plague, stop taking their money, and actively concern ourselves with the present and the contemporary past, i.e., the archaeology and ethnography of the inhabitants of the historical basin itself.

– Raphael Greenberg, “A Future for the Archaeology of Jerusalem”, Bible and Interpretation, January 2013

It is well worth a read in full.

h/t Jim West


3 thoughts on “Rafi Greenberg on the “Universe of Denial” in Jerusalem Archaeology

  1. I regret that a piece by R. Greenberg wasn’t included in the forthcoming “The Politics of Israel’s Past” (if you excuse the self-promotion; http://www.sheffieldphoenix.com/showbook.asp?bkid=233), which addresses in most of its contributions the topic of G.’s short piece. Indeed, biblical scholars cannot claim anymore to be beyond or apart the political implications of their arguments.



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