Laurent Dissard

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20122013 Forum on Peripheries

Laurent Dissard

Near Eastern Studies

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Submerged Stories on the Sidelines of Science

In my book project "Submerged Stories from the Sidelines of Science," I take a single event, the building of the Keban Dam along the Upper Euphrates River in Eastern Turkey and the accompanying archaeological rescue project, and examine it from a number of different angles. I consider it first within the development of the field of archaeology in the still rather young Turkish nation of the late 1960s. I then expand my scope to examine how archaeological practice, in general, contributes to the production of scientific knowledge as a whole. Returning my focus to the region of the Keban Dam, I examine how the archaeological research was carried out in the absence of explicit social engagement on the part of the researchers, yet with deeply social and political implications. Through a careful study of the published reports and photographs of the excavations, I scrutinize the ways certain types of evidence were selected and rendered visible, while others—if not completely erased—were marginalized. I argue that while the production of scientific knowledge might place on the periphery aspects of the local, the contemporary and the natural, it does not entirely obliterate their traces. It is these which I then recover and place in the foreground of my analysis. Thus, "Submerged Stories from the Sidelines of Science," by investigating the politics behind rescue projects, uncovers the absence of Turkey's marginalized "others," (Kurds, Armenians, Alevis, etc.) mentioned in the scientific reports of archaeological expeditions, but whose histories remain to be written.