True to its foundational principles, the World Archaeological Congress will hold its first “Middle East” meeting to focus on the powerful relationship between archaeology, heritage and politics. The archaeology of the West Bank and its surrounding region is enormously significant as the location where the three monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam — all trace their origins. Yet the archaeological and cultural heritage of this region suffers constant and extensive damage from political and ideological struggles to control the region.
Today as Palestine moves closer to official statehood, WAC decries the often destructive politics that define Israeli-Palestinian relationships. We note the on-going damage to the archaeological record but also the potential of a shared cultural heritage to build towards peace. We call for participation in this strategic InterCongress to demonstrate how archaeology can serve political ends for the greater good.
The focus of this InterCongress is on structural violence: the insidious structures and the stark inequalities that perpetuate conflicts. Structural violence is built into western countries’ relations with much of the rest of the world, preventing most non-western countries from becoming economically and culturally ‘equal’ to the West. Often structural violence is hidden and works without overt physical infringement, making it all the more effective.
As anthropologists, archaeologists, cultural heritage professionals, and concerned local community members, we ask what role archaeological and cultural heritage research has in overcoming these ‘in-built’ obstacles? Must we engage against structural violence outside of archaeological practice, or can archaeological practice confront and impact the ravages of structural violence?
Sessions and panels will be held on August 9th and 10th. August 11th and 12th are reserved for workshops, ‘hands on’ experiences and tours of the region by regional cultural heritage non-government organizations. Closing sessions and consideration of InterCongress resolutions will take place on August 13th.
The world is a complex place, and due to Israeli government regulations, it appears that some Israeli archaeologists who may have wished to attend WAC Ramallah may be unable to do so. We regret the situation. We are trying to arrange for a screening of the proceedings that will be available in East Jerusalem. More specific information will be available as soon as possible. Other potential attendees are even less fortunate because they simply cannot afford the travel to Ramallah. We will therefore make the proceedings, including the talks, roundtables and dicussions, available on this website soon after the intercongress. In this way, we hope to open a longer term dialogue.