Digging for Democracy Modernization, Development and Archaeology in Greece
Department of Sociology The New School for Social Research New York, USA
How has modernization theory conditioned our system of knowledge and thought? How have modernization and development shaped our academic practices? And how did scholarship come to play such a primary role in the project of democratizing the world? By way of answering these questions we may find that we never actually parted with modernization theory and that it has been harbored and reproduced even by the most improbable of all disciplines; classical archaeology.
One might say that the debate following WWII about the relation between federal government and the social sciences was not pertinent to the discipline of classical archaeology for the minor effect that the discipline could have on the formulation of public policy. If one looks towards the direction of representational politics, however, a different story unravels. In this paper, I examine the history of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), one of the most prominent institutions of classical studies internationally. I argue that the underlying ideology that sustained the relationship between the government and archaeologists, who enlisted as "social scientists" supported the war efforts, persisted long after the war and exerted influence upon the School´s work. The primacy of democracy and the importance of liberal economy for world peace were best represented by the ASCSA, which draws much of its prestige from excavating the Athenian Agora, the symbolic birthplace of western democracy. Supported by governmental and private institutions the School projected to the world the image of post-war America as it was meant to be exemplified in free, scientific, non-political research.
Unlike anthropology and other disciplines, which have been subjected to this kind of scrutiny, classical archaeology and its institutions have not been studied under this light. This study opens new directions for a field, which has been criticized for nourishing ideas of western cultural superiority but its political dimensions remain in the dark; furthermore, it problematizes the relation between modernization theory and scholarship and places it in historical perspective.