Tuesday, February 01, 2011

It's all the fault of collectors

In the sadly warped and grossly ignorant perspective of anticollecting extremists such as Paul Barford, events such as those now unfolding in Egypt can be ascribed to an insatiable hunger on the part of Western collectors for antiquities, in this case Egyptian in origin.

In reality there is indeed an insatiable hunger, in Egypt and elsewhere, however it is not any such imaginary ravenous collector appetite for antiquities, but instead an intense desire to participate in the modern world and its economy on terms which the outlook of Barford and his ilk view as inappropriate for "third world" nations and their downtrodden, oppressed and impoverished citizens.

This particular social hunger has been a long time brewing. It can be traced back many decades, and its root is the imperialist, Kiplingesque concept of the "White Man's Burden," i.e. that Europeans (in Kipling's view Englishmen) must dominate "oriental" societies in order to teach "wogs" European concepts of social order.

Although Rudyard Kipling was unquestionably a great writer, that is not by any means the same thing as being a great social prophet.

It remains to be seen how the future will view Paul Barford and those who support his extreme perspective regarding what ails archaeology. In the opinion of this observer the essential issue is perceptions of social justice, not preservation of the archaeological record. It seems to me that citizens of "source nations" such as Egypt for the most part have very little interest in preserving the archaeological record, but a very great interest in what they view as constituting social justice.

It will be interesting to see what Barford and those who think as he does have to offer. In this particular situation, I do not believe that the Egyptian people as a whole sympathize with his views.

Dave Welsh
Unidroit-L Listowner


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