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Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 4:30pm
Goldwin Smith Hall, G22
232 East Ave, Central Campus
The Cost of Invisible Labor: Local Workers in the Past and Present of Middle Eastern Archaeology
Communities living on and around archaeological sites have, for centuries, provided much of the manual labor necessary for archaeological excavations to proceed. This is particularly true in the Middle East, but is a tradition in other regions as well-- Central and South America, notably, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. In this talk, I present how historical and ethnographic research reveals the long-term effects of this legacy, on both the communities involved and on archaeological research itself. I use Catalhoyuk, Turkey and Petra, Jordan as case studies to demonstrate the expertise that site workers on these projects have developed from their years of participation in excavation. I use the visualization and statistical capabilities of social network analysis to systematically compare the workers' oral historical record to the site archives from the two sites, illustrating in which ways the two bodies of information overlap, conflict, or complement one another. Despite the evident professional knowledge and skills that locally-hired laborers at Petra and Catalhoyuk possess regarding archaeological finds, methods, and analysis, however, I argue that the economic realities of how archaeological labor is organized make it financially beneficial for local community members to disavow their privileged expertise about archaeological work. They are instead rewarded for pretending to know less, to be-- in their words-- "simple workers." In this dissertation, I contextualize this set of circumstances within the history of archaeology in the Middle East, showing how lasting colonial and Orientalist legacies and the way that they continue to structure archaeological labor relations impact the production of knowledge through archaeological excavation.