Beyond Identity: The Socio-Economic Impacts of Archaeology on a Non-Descendant Community in Sudan

Conference: The European Conference on Arts & Humanities (ECAH2022)
Title: Beyond Identity: The Socio-Economic Impacts of Archaeology on a Non-Descendant Community in Sudan
Stream: Other Humanities
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Rebecca Bradshaw, United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates


The impact of ‘global’ archaeology on ‘local’ communities that live on, or beside, archaeological sites is a question of great importance and an emerging topic in historical discourse. Studies so far have focused mostly on how archaeology is used in the construction of identity in ‘descendant’ communities, that is, communities which claim an ancestral link to the ancient inhabitants of the archaeological sites. However, these studies have tended to sideline the many ‘non-descendant’ communities that exist across the world and who are equally subject to the archaeological phenomenon; they have also largely neglected to consider archaeology’s not inconsiderable economic impacts – vitally important in the context of poverty and conflict. Using new investigatory models, this presentation seeks to go ‘beyond identity’ to illuminate the impacts of archaeology on local communities through an ethnographic case-study of a non-descendant community living amid ancient ‘Nubian’ archaeological sites in Sudan. In doing so it contributes to the relatively new field of archaeological ethnography (e.g. Hamilakis (2011) and Meskell (2012)). This presentation will show that although residents living in the case-study community do not identify with ancient Nubia, let alone ancient Nubians, both of which the archaeological sites officially represent, the sites nevertheless have significant cultural meaning. This meaning is, however, being eroded - and the alienating effects of archaeological site management plans contribute to this decline. In addition to, or perhaps in place of, cultural connections, this presentation suggests that the community residents frame archaeology’s impact, or lack thereof, in economic terms.

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