The Center for Documentation of Cultural & Natural Heritage, is holding an event to introduce and commemorate national Egyptian pioneers in archeology on January the 10th. The aim of the event apparently is to showcase the documentation efforts the center has been conducting since 2013. Meanwhile, and fresh from the press is Donald Malcolm Reid’s new book: Contesting Antiquity in: Archelogies, Museums and the Struggle for Identities from World War 1 to Nasser, which follows the same line of his previous book Whose Pharaohs? Archeology, Museums and Egyptian national identity from Napoleon to World War 1.
The second volume seeks to “write Egyptians into the history of archeology in their own country”(p.10) by focusing on Egyptian archaeologists like Ahmed Kamal in Egyptology and Ali Bahgat and Marcus Simaika in Islamic and Coptic Archeology respectively, along with their european counterparts who have dominated the history of Archaeology in Egypt.
Next week’s event, however, will be focusing on Egyptology. Hence among the three, it seems that only Ahmad Kamal be in the spotlight along with other pioneer Egyptologists.
Both the book and the event are part of a trend of critical unearthing of an Egyptian nationalist heritage. In Architecture, the discipline of which I am an outsider, and with which I am in conversation; I have encountered this through the work of Shimaa Ashour (her master’s s thesis on Egyptian architects in Egypt’s liberal period has been published in Arabic) and who blogs here, and her work I think has accompanied ElShahed’s Phd thesis (and blog) which also focuses on national architects and I think is currently being turned into a book and will be translated into Arabic.
Archeology of course has a different relation to history and historiography, as Reid notices it is the European pioneers in archaeology that dominate its history (p.10). Besides, establishing links between the european and egyptian pioneers in archaeology, his book also seeks to bring in the different archelogies of Egypt (not only the pharaonic) that were under different European cultural influences as he shows in his introduction, and to further contextualize the history of archeology (usually left to archaeologists) with the broader cultural, social and political contexts and into mainstream Egyptian history.
I ran into the event as usual on Facebook and into the book because I am interested in looking into the aesthetics of nationalism. Reid’ book –though stopping in 1952 (exactly when my own research begins)- promises perhaps an illuminating insight on popular interest in pharaonism (p.12) and may be in comparison with the other paradigmatic components of the Egyptian past that have been invoked time and time again within Egyptian nationalism.
I will be updating this post as I read more into the book and if I attend the event.