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BRITARCH  February 2010

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Subject:

Re: Huns: Part 2

From:

"PETTS D.A." <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 Feb 2010 12:58:35 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Hi Barbara

I think the key point that Guillermo-Sven was trying to make is that
ethnic identity is a complex notion, this is particularly so in the
early medieval period when ethnicity is particularly inchoate, groups
amalgamate, split, disappear and reappear. Confederations of groups rise
and fall and individual elements within larger entities can rise from
nowhere and sink without trace.  It is extremely difficult to try and
follow distinct ethnic groups across time and space in this period


1) Fundamentally, there are two ways of thinking about ethnicity, as
something fundamental (its something that has a key, irreducible core)
or as something that is created and reinvented by individuals and groups
according to the situation they find themselves. Archaeologist,
sociologists and historians tend to call the former definition, an
'essentialist' approach, and the latter a 'constructivist' approach
(apologies for the jargon but these terms are useful shorthand in trying
to understand a complex debate). Most archaeologists and historians are
very much in the 'constructivist' camp as far as ethnicity goes.

They would argue that an individual can have many different identities;
even ethnic identities. It will depend upon the particular situation
which one they will choose to express. For example, there is a 3rd
century gravestone from Panonnia (roughly western Hungary) which reads '
Francus ego cives, miles romanus in armis' (I am a Frankish citizen, and
a Roman under arms) - a clear expression of how one person could have
two 'ethnic' identities at one time. The early medieval period is one
where there is plentiful evidence for individuals and groups being
creative with their ethnic identities choosing to
express/repress/reinvent identities according to the particular
situation they find themselves in. The medieval historian Patrick Geary
has thus defined ethnicity in this period as a 'situational construct'
(again apologies for the technical language).

2) It thus follows that there is no simple relationship between
archaeological evidence and ethnicity. The simple mapping of
'cultures'/ethnic groups through the distribution of specific
objects/groups of artefacts was common in the first half of the 20th
century, but since then research has shown this is simply not
sustainable. Brooches don't have DNA- particular groups of objects might
become increasingly common for a variety of reasons e.g. fashion, trade,
emulation - you can't simply say that everyone wearing an Anglo-Saxon or
Frankish brooch is an Anglo-Saxon or a Frank.

3) Finally there is a methodological problem, the quality of evidence
for this period is very patchy; as Guillermo noted we are also talking
about a long period of time; its very tempting to consolidate little
facts here and there into a coherent patterns, but this risks (over)
simplifying things significantly.


Not surprisingly the whole issue of ethnic identity is one that has
generated an immense amount of literature from archaeologists and
historians, particularly with reference to the early medieval period. I
appreciate that you are primarily writing a work of fiction rather than
engaged in a PhD on archaeology and ethnicity, but if you want to find
out more about how present scholarship views ethnicity I'd suggest
having a look at the following work

- Chapter 2 of Guy Halsall's excellent Barbarian Migrations and the
Roman West 376-568 (2007, Cambirdge University Press), which is an
extremely good introduction to current understandings of how identities
were defined in the early medieval period -even if you read nothing else
on the subject, this is a succinct and up-to-date overview of current
approaches to ethnic identity.

For a more general overview of how archaeologists have looked at ethnic
identity try Sian Jones' Archaeology and Identity (1997; Routledge)

Hope this helps

Best wishes
David






-----Original Message-----
From: British archaeology discussion list
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Barbara West
Sent: 25 February 2010 12:20
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Huns: Part 2

Dear Guillermo-Sven Reher Diez,
 
   Please forgive me for being old and old-fashioned, because I didn't
really understand your post at all.  But I gather it has to do with
these modern notions of "multiculturalism", which is only "Cultural
Marxism" dressed up in a new outfit, like mutton dressed as lamb, or
perhaps a wolf in another garb.  
 
   Imagine a sumptuous wedding banquet, with all the glorious food piled
high on the tables---food prepared with endless care by chefs who had
trained for years in their proud profession.  While all the guests are
happily enjoying the meal, the Cultural Marxists walk in, put the
choicest morsels in their pockets to eat later, and then demand that the
chefs take some food from each dish, and some wine from each bottle,
mash it all up in a blender, and serve it to everyone in a porridge
bowl.  Then they kick out the chefs, take over the banquet hall, and
start haranguing the guests about what to do, what to say and what to
think.  That is my understanding of multiculturalism.
 
   Another way to put it is: Would Norway still be Norway without any
Norwegians in it?
   
   At any rate, thank you for your comments, and I appreciate your
taking time to read my long posts.   And apologies to whoever first
thought of the banquet hall story, because I'm sure I've heard it
somewhere before...
 


 

 

 
 		 	   		  
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