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“I own, therefore I am”: Conflating archaeology with heritage in Greece: a possessive individualist approach

Fouseki, K; (2009) “I own, therefore I am”: Conflating archaeology with heritage in Greece: a possessive individualist approach. In: Waterton, E and Smith, L, (eds.) Taking Archaeology out of Heritage. (49 - 65). Cambridge Scholars Publishing: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.

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Abstract

The concept of “possessive individualism”, developed by Macpherson in 1962, stresses that an individual is imbued with a dual and internally contradictory ontology; the ontology of the infinite consumer coupled with the ontology of the individual as developer of his/her own self. The core principle of this theory, “I own, therefore I am”, constitutes a powerful mechanism for understanding a range of power relations within any given society, thereby rendering it an idea that is applicable and adjustable in various historic, political, social, temporal and geographical contexts. I use Macpherson’s theory as a basis for understanding the conflation of archaeology with heritage, and examine this within the particular social and political contexts offered by Greece. I argue that this conflation overwhelmingly derives from—and leads to—“possessive individualist” attitudes inherent in the archaeological profession; a point also made by Lahn (2007) regarding the struggle for disciplinary identity in the field of archaeology. In her work, Lahn suggests that the possession of certain objects, particularly high status objects, becomes a symbolic statement of individual or collective identity. Lahn, in examining the Kow Swamp repatriation case in Australia, argues that possession and control over those things deemed “archaeological” is a significant aspect or statement of disciplinary identity. The need to “own”, control or possess to confirm individual professional and disciplinary identity is thus a significant factor in the conflation of archaeology with heritage in Greece. This conflation reinforces “possessive individualist” attitudes inherent in the archaeological profession and simultaneously reinforces archaeological power and authoritarianism. As a result, archaeologists in Greece play a significant and regulatory role in the management of heritage. This is in part a consequence of the narrowly constructed understanding of heritage that dominates the management process, and links the term with “antiquities” and other “cultural objects”. It is also a consequence of implicit and underlying power structures. It is this dominance of archaeological knowledge and thought over the management of heritage that constitutes one of the main sources of conflict and tension between archaeological authorities and local communities in Greece.

Type: Book chapter
Title: “I own, therefore I am”: Conflating archaeology with heritage in Greece: a possessive individualist approach
ISBN-13: 9781443814423
Publisher version: http://www.cambridgescholars.com/taking-archaeolog...
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2009 by Emma Waterton and Laurajane Smith and contributors.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1319144
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