ANTH Colloquium - Lynn Meskell (Stanford University)

Monday, September 23, 2019 - 12:00pm

3260 South Street, Penn Museum, Classroom 2

Engineering Internationalism: Colonialism, the Cold War and UNESCO’s Victory in Nubia

Much has been written about UNESCO’s Nubian Campaign, from the heroism and humanism promoted by the agency’s own vast propaganda machine, to the competing narratives of national saviors whether the French or Americans, to Nubia as a theatre for the Cold War, right down to individual accounts by technocrats, bureaucrats and archaeologists. What crystallized in UNESCO’s midcentury mission in Nubia was a material attempt to overcome the fissures that were already appearing in their postwar dream of a global peace. Portrayed as a vast international co-operation with unrivaled grandeur and romance, saving Nubia potentially relegated the crisis of Suez to history, manufactured much-needed harmony in the Middle East, demonstrated once and for all that culture could contribute to a Kantian perpetual peace and, acquisitively, it would recapture the materialities of civilization for the West. Humanity as a whole could claim its inheritance from Egypt, thus reinforcing UNESCO’s lofty ideals of world citizenship: a common humanity in the past paired with a common responsibility for the future.