Western strategies of colonialism in the contemporary Middle East entail cultural imperialism, a facet of which is mediated through the definition, management, and marketing of cultural heritage in ways that are disengaged from academic practice but linked to Western hegemonic geopolitics and the neoliberal economy. Archaeology is put in service to national and supranational forms of political and economic power through the direct involvement of North American and European universities and museums in conflict zones, the attachment of professional archaeologists to Western occupying armies, the manipulation of cultural heritage, art market economics linked to large institutions in the West, and a concerted effort to align archaeology with foreign diplomatic policy so as to offer legitimacy to imperialist policies. Here I emphasize the need for an open, self-reflexive debate so as to draw attention to the ethical norms that should guide professional practice overwriting any appeal to professional expertise or the protection of cultural heritage.

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