American Biblical Archaeologists and Zionism: The Politics of Historical Ethnography
Sherrard, Brooke (author)
Porterfield, Amanda (professor directing dissertation)
Garretson, Peter (university representative)
Corrigan, John (committee member)
Goff, Matthew (committee member)
Gaiser, Adam (committee member)
Department of Religion (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
This project explores the relationship between American biblical archaeologists in the mid-twentieth century and the most pressing political issue of the context in which they lived and worked, Zionism. It focuses on a set of American religious studies scholars who engaged the rapidly changing Middle East from the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem during a time when the area changed from British to Jordanian to Israeli rule. While much recent scholarship historicizes academics and critiques the politics of scholarship, very little work has been done to understand these scholars' positions in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, thus allowing the aura of scholarly objectivity, neutrality, and commitment to value-free science that has long surrounded them to continue. But as I show here, archaeologists did enter the debate over Palestine in a substantial way, with their positions on the conflict during the decades before and after the state of Israel's founding weaving their way explicitly and implicitly through both their personal papers and publications. I draw on theoretical insights about history, ethnography, and historical ethnography that have engaged the field of North American religions in recent decades to reconstruct the archaeologists' cultural theories and how these theories underpinned their political desires for the area they considered the Holy Land. The defining difference in their arguments was their understanding of culture. I argue that those archaeologists who envisioned the ancient world as replete with cultural change and hybridity opposed the establishment of a Jewish state, while those who envisioned the ancient world's ethnic boundaries as rigid and impermeable favored it. I support this argument by combining readings of the archaeologists' writings with archival research documenting their heretofore almost unknown political involvement either for or against the establishment of an ethno-national state in Palestine. Many of the scholars in the latter group belonged informally to the "Baltimore school," founded by William Foxwell Albright, who held that biblical archaeology was corroborating the Hebrew Bible's historicity and showing how different the ancient Israelites and Canaanites had been, as discussed in Chapter One. During the 1940s, Albright also lectured frequently on behalf of a Jewish state. Others, most prominently Millar Burrows, discussed in Chapter Two, held a more cautious view of the Bible's historicity and believed the archaeological data showed that the ancient Israelites and Canaanites were culturally similar, not different. Burrows resigned his positions in scholarly organizations in order to publish a book about the Palestinian refugee crisis in 1949. Chapter Three details American rabbi-archaeologist Nelson Glueck's mid-career shift from opposing a Jewish state to supporting it and the dramatic corresponding shift in his scholarship about the ancient past. Chapter Four shows the way the differences between Israelites and Canaanites were drawn in even bolder lines by biblical theologian and archaeologist George Ernest Wright, who considered his support for Israel non-political and harshly criticized archaeologists who took pro-Palestinian positions. Chapter Five shows the way that two archaeologists who became associated with pro-Palestinian positions, Paul Lapp and Albert Glock, grounded their arguments in an appeal to the flexibility and hybridity of cultures and a rejection of scholars' ability to be objective. It is important to note that when Glueck, Burrows, Lapp, and Glock opposed a Jewish state, it was not because they favored an Arab state. They rejected ethnic nationalism in any form, and they used the theoretical basis for that opposition--that cultures are not essentially homogeneous, or mutually exclusive, or unchanging over the centuries--to combat modern ethnic nationalism through their scholarship.
American Schools of Oriental Research, Biblical archaeology, Millar Burrows, Nelson Glueck, William Foxwell Albright, Zionism
October 21, 2011.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Amanda Porterfield, Professor Directing Dissertation; Peter Garretson, University Representative; John Corrigan, Committee Member; Matthew Goff, Committee Member; Adam Gaiser, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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