Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Özdoğan: ideology and archaeology in Turkey online

As already noted on NewsTurkey and Turkish Digest and on Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, Mehmet Özdoğan's 1998 article on ideology and archaeology in Turkey is now available online.

In the article, Özdoğan discussed: the traditional Ottoman perception of the past; the relationships between the first generation of European archaeologists and the Ottoman Empire; the relationship between nationalism and archaeology in Turkey; Turkish views on foreign archaeological expeditions; the first generation of Turkish archaeologists; the second generation of Turkish archaeologists and women in archaeology; claims of double standards in protection and cultural cleansing of Turkish heritage; and treasure hunting and the illicit antiquities market. Unfortunately, his work did repeat some of the misleading official claims of Turkish protection of minorities' cultural heritage and foreign destruction of Turkish cultural heritage; but it does reproduce those official narratives so close together that their unbelievability is visible.

Certainly, his comments on the illicit antiquities trade were naive: I believe he was right to acknowledge Turkish state and professional efforts to prevent looting of archaeological sites and smuggling of archaeological artefacts; but I think he was wrong to ignore the way looters and smugglers often escape punishment. At least in northern Cyprus - and, particularly worryingly, in high-profile cases - people caught in the criminal act (suçüstü) are held in custody for a few days then released, like Galip Arnavut, Mehmet Asvaroğlu, Turgut Göztaşı, Yılmaz Göktaşı and Atalay Hiçkorkmaz, and Tremeşeli Mehmet Ali İlkman.

İlkman had been active for about forty years when he was found with antiquities, arrested, then released, first on the 4th of January 2006, then again on the 31st of January 2008. He may have been convicted and imprisoned after either or both of the arrests, but I found no mention of it (and I found reports of his arrest and release, so it stands to reason that they would have reported and I would have read about his conviction and imprisonment). Obviously, even if he had been convicted and imprisoned after the 2006 arrest, he had been free and active in time to be arrested again in 2008, when Yeni Düzen reported it as the arrest of "well-known names in the smuggling of antiquities"; and after the 2008 arrest, the Cyprus Star confirmed that İlkman remained free (serbest kaldı). Theoretically, that may have changed since the Cyprus Star's 2nd February 2008 article, but I doubt it. Cynics might wonder whether personal or professional connections İlkman made in the Turkish Resistance Organisation and the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation helped him keep his freedom.

Özdoğan, M. 1998: "Ideology and archaeology in Turkey". In Meskell, L, (Eds.). Archaeology under fire: Nationalism, politics and heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, 111-124. London: Routledge. Available at: http://opranda.blogspot.com/2008/12/ideology-and-archaeology-in-turkey.html.

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