Bulgarian archaeology. Ideology, sociopolitics and the exotic, Douglass W. Bailey

Practitioners as ideologues

The line between audience and practitioner is not as simply drawn as I have implied above. There are large numbers of the audience who might count as part-time practitioners. A large minority of the populace have practised archaeology. These accidental practitioners include teenagers who spent their summer exped-itions in the youth brigades working on archaeological excavations. Also included are young men, who during their national service. were conscripted to provide labour for rescue excavations. An additional group consists of local villagers (most often pensioners, but also young students) who are frequently employed on large, mainly foreign-financed, projects.

While these part-time practitioners may give pause for thought in assessing the expertise of the archaeological workforce, they are peripheral to the main focus here (i.e. the professional, full-time practitioners). Furthermore, while education, public exhibition, broadcasts and hands-on involvement bring the experiences of archaeology to a majority of the population, the direction of its study is restricted to the few. If, as 1Ihave argued above, Bulgarian archaeology is an ideology, then these full-time practitioners of Bulgarian archaeology are best characterised as ideologues.

The case that Bulgarian archaeologists are ideologues rests on several important facts. The first is a long-standing link between politicians and members of the scientific and cultural intelligentsia. The second link connects two separate roles which Bulgarian archaeologists play: on the one hand they are scientific field-workers; on the other they are custodians and, as mentioned above, arbiters of the nation's past. These links raise (and suggest answers to) important questions about the power of archaeological data and its interpretation. In turn they raise a debate surrounding the personnel of Bulgarian archaeology, most particularly the question of who is allowed (as opposed to who is qualified) to study the past. Furthermore, it is through an examination of the practitioners of archaeology that one comes to understand the unchanging condition of archaeological interpret-ation in Bulgaria. Such an understanding is especially enlightening in the absence of either processual or post-modern developments in Bulgarian archaeologies.

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