Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Archaeology of Gatherings Conference | Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland | October 2013 | Part II

[** If you like this post, please make a donation to the IR&DD project using the secure button at the right. If you think it is interesting or useful, please re-share via Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc. To help keep the site in operation, please use the amazon search portal at the right - each purchase earns a small amount of advertising revenue **]

The continuing saga of the Archaeology of Gatherings Conference, held in Sligo, in October 2013.

Modern horse fair (Source)
Sometime around 11:30, suitably refreshed, we assembled once again for Session 2, chaired by Fiona Beglane. First to the podium was Prof Elizabeth FitzPatrick, (NUI Galway) to speak on Shifting Territorial Boundaries and Medieval Assembly Places. FitzPatrick explained that she wanted to concentrate on the Óenach (pronounced: i-nach) of Lough Gill, Co. Sligo and on how shifts in territorial boundaries could exclude former owners. An Óenach was the site of periodic, or seasonal, tribal assemblies held on the quarterly feasts on the old Irish year: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Other Medieval assemblies included the Oireachtas, a parliament; and the Gairm Anam, a naming ceremony. The Óenach had its origins as a political assembly with ritual associations. There were usually games of various sorts played at these occasions, generally focusing on horse and chariot races. Where these traditions have survived in some form, they have frequently developed into a commercial fair – frequently a horse fair. One of the distinguishing features of Óenach sites are their association with funerary monuments. Another is their relationship with certain types of terrain. In particular, they are associated with broken ground, where the geology is close to the surface and may be the site of quarries and mines. They are likely to be in or near clear-felled areas of landscape used as hunting grounds, which would have been necessary for the feeding of large numbers of people. Finally, Óenach sites are most usually found in boundary areas between territorial units.

The primary evidence of the Óenach Loch Gille is the Early Medieval life of St Cealach of Killalla. It is the reputed burial place of Eógan Bél mac Cellaig, an early historic king of Connacht. In one version of his story, Eógan Bél’s body was disinterred by the Uí Néill and reburied ‘mouth downwards’. The site of this Óenach has ben identified as the townlands of Formoyle and Deerpark on the north shore of Lough Gill. The site is flanked by two further small lakes: Colghagh Lake and Lough Anelteen (The Lake of the Hinds). In terms of being part of a funerary landscape, Formoyle contains the largest court tomb in Ireland, along with one other wedge tomb. Other archaeological sites in the vicinity include a cashel and a souterrain. The name ‘Formoyle’ also signifies that these lands were hunting grounds. This Óenach was originally in Calraige Tuadh. Before 1173 this belonged to the Uí Ruairc, as part of their over-kingdom of Uí Briuin Bréifne. After the arrival of the Anglo-Normans the political structure collapsed and Uí Briuin Bréifne contracted, leading to Calraige becoming a contested landscape and a battle ground for the Lordships of Upper Connacht. FitzPatrick noted a late 16th century Praise Poem that anachronistically describes O’Rourke as the ‘King of Calraige’, even though he was now just a Lord and Calraige was not part of his lands. FitzPatrick argued that, although cut off from their ancient Óenach for over 400 years, the site retained a deep significance to the Uí Ruairc and remained contested.

Note: this paper is based on: FitzPatrick, E. 2013 'Formaoil na Fiann: hunting preserves and assembly places in Gaelic Ireland' Proceedings of Harvard Celtic Colloquium 32, 95-118.

Members of the Orange Order on parade in East Belfast 2012 (Source)
Public Space and Power – Ritual and Identity in a ‘Shared’ Belfast was the topic of the paper delivered by Dr Dominic Bryan (Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast). Bryan began with Durkheim’s definition of a gathering as an event that ‘generates a kind of electricity that quickly transports them to an extraordinary degree of exaltation’. For the purposes of this paper, Bryan wanted to examine how identity works in the public space. He argued that Ireland has a ‘parading tradition’ and that the messages encoded in these public demonstrations can be manifold. They may include representations of status; displays of ideology; along with expressions of power and/or resistance. Bryan was also at pains to point out that these parades are also fun for the participants and that this plays an enormous role in their continued popularity. The outcome of these forces is that ritual and the symbolic landscape is seen as a reflection of power and identity.

Bryan presented a rather complicated-looking Venn diagram representing an abstraction of how he sees Belfast in the 1960s. During this period there was Unionist hegemony, with strong relations and overlap between Unionism and the ‘Civic’ sphere, against Nationalism and other spheres. Even at this point some activities (such as Bonfires on the night of the 11th of July) were considered problematic for the ‘Civic’ sphere. Similarly, for Irish Nationalism parades and the display of the Irish tricolour were held outside the central Civic space and were allowed. By the 1970 there was a re-emergence of the IRA and UDA terrorist organisations, both of which used parades as a means of showing strength and political identity. Throughout this period there was significant use of the politicisation of terrorist funerals by both sides, though Bryan stressed that this aspect needed much more study. Taken together, he sees the 1970s as a period where there was a significant diminution in the ‘Civic’ sphere, with corresponding increases in both the Unionist and Nationalist spheres of influence. Bryan sees the peace process of 2007 and onwards as a drive to create a viable shared space. Part of this has been achieved by using the ideas of multiculturalism to build what he terms a ‘fake consensus’. Bryan argues that these rituals are important in Northern Ireland as participation in them influences Civic identities. As an artefact of this, it is the ability to participate in these rituals is defined by the control of public space. That power to control has shifted radically over the last 50 years. There are still problem areas, including the role of 11th night bonfires. These have been pushed out of the ‘Civic’ sphere, partly due to the traditional lawlessness of these working class celebrations. His conclusion is that for peace in Northern Ireland we need safer and more cosmopolitan spaces. Indeed, for peace to grow anywhere we need managed civic spaces that can accommodate manifestly different identities. Essentially – a shared city is a peaceful city!

25th Punjabis at the Delhi Durbar, 1911 (Source)
Next up was Prof. Stuart Tyson Smith (University of California, Santa Barbara, US). His chosen topic was Colonial Gatherings: The Presentation of Inu in New Kingdom Egypt and the British Imperial Durbar, a Comparison. As part of the 1877 celebrations to proclaim Queen Victoria as Empress of India, a large assembly was held in Delhi, echoing the format of a traditional Durbar. In Pharaonic Egypt during the New Kingdom (c. 1550 – 1060 BC) the act of ‘presenting Inu’ was a similarly colonial gathering, held annually at Thebes (modern Luxor). Both used performance and feasting as part of their format. At both the Durbar and the Presentation of Inu there was a use of ‘native’ costumes. Tyson Smith asked the question: how should we see this act? Is the wearing of ‘native’ costume simply a matter of pride, or is it more about the reinforcing of colonial views?  The Presentation of Inu involved native Egyptians, along with an assortment of Nubians, Libyans, Asiatics, and representatives from various vassal states etc. He noted that the word ‘Inu’ is most often translated as ‘tribute’, but it requires a more nuanced interpretation that combines both the ideas of a tax and a symbolic gifting. Records indicate that the attendees paid homage to Pharaoh with gifts that included gold rings and exotic animals. The texts suggest that this was a carefully choreographed event where the participants were organised to parade by region. This structure was deliberately chosen to present a juxtaposition between notions of ‘inner order’ and ‘outer chaos’. Indeed, the similarities to the Durbar have been drawn out in the modern literature by a number of commentators.

The Durbar was, essentially, an invention of the Delhi Viceroys. These were lavish events that lasted from two to four weeks, and consisted of military reviews, parades etc. The 1877 Durbar was the brainchild of Benjamin Disraeli and Viceroy Lytton. However, the monarch was not present at the event, nor at the 1903 Durbar. It was only at the very last Durbar in 1911, that the monarch – King George V accompanied by Queen Mary – was present. The traditional Durbar was a reciprocal event between the ruler and the ruled, while this colonial incarnation was very much about the ruler above the ruled. To reinforce the imperial message, Indians attending the event were required to wear ‘native costume’ and there was a push towards more elaborate, colourful costumes, underlining the ‘otherness’ of the native population.  He noted that in the 1830s the Madras Army essentially mimicked European uniform styles, but as a result of the influence of the 1877 Durbar, they began to take on more ‘native’ elements. – this can be easily seen in the images that accompany the Wiki article. Tyson Smith eloquently put the case that there was a strong ideological message here of unity created out of diversity. While the populace may have been ‘dazzled by Lytton’s bunting’, it was very much intended as an expression of the power and might of the Empire. Where he sees a difference between the two events it is that the Presentation of Inu was conducted at the seat of colonial power, while the Durbar was held within the colony. Tyson Smith noted that one long-lasting result of promotion of elaborate faux-native costumes – often made from imported British textiles – was Ghandi’s association with homespun Khādī cloth.

View of the Warsaw Ghetto (Source)
Stephen Dixon had the unenviable task of speaking directly before lunch. His topic was even more formidable: Archaeological and Anthropological aspects of 'forced gathering' from within the Jewish Holocaust. He began with an acknowledgment that the Holocaust remains a difficult topic of conversation for many, but that it is no less worthy of study and discussion. Dixon argued that the process of Holocaust had four phases: Persecution, Ghettoisation, Deportation, and finally Internment and Extermination. In the first instance, Persecution of the Jewish populace stemmed from newly enacted legislation, such as the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. The intent of this legislation was the humiliation and diminution of the rights of the Jewish people, building on already present levels of anti-Semitism within civil society. Attendant on this was the gradual erosion of Jewishness by the Nazi regime, leading to racial isolation. This legislation was just one element of this process, while others included Reinhard Heydrich’s 1942 Wannsee Conference, which set ‘the Final Solution’ in motion.

Ghettoisation – what Dixon refers to as ‘Terror Zone 1 – was essentially an exercise in urban planning and population control. It was also the first step in the ‘forced gathering’ and in the mechanics of genocide. The purposely manufactured locations selected for ghettos were strategically placed close to key rail lines and deliberately made use of sub-standard housing. These walled-in enclaves were consciously hidden from the cities they were part of. Dixon notes that these urban slums stand in stark contrast with the grand monumentality favoured by Hitler, his architect Albert Speer, and the Nazi regime generally.  Today the walls surrounding ghettos, such as Kraków and Warsaw, have been reintegrated into their modern cities. Dixon noted that many sections of walling are now in playgrounds and parks. While some have associated memorials, many languish (in Dixon’s lovely turn of phrase), in ‘quiet disrepair, tending towards invisibility’. As part of the planned deportation (Terror Zone 2) some three million Jews were transported to death camps. There was an obvious correlation between the systems of killing and deportation, and the transport infrastructure was a key component in this. Much of the transport was organised by Deutsche Reichsbahn, the State railway, and many camps were equipped with their own railway platforms. During this time there was an enhanced use of propaganda tools – on both the Jewish people and the remaining German populace – to spread the view that the transportations were to bring people to ‘safety and work’ in the east. Together, these actions and conditions ensured that the deported Jewish population – alongside all the others deemed undesirable – were forced into liminality, marginalised, and dehumanised. Dixon makes the interesting point that even language changes during the deportation process as euphemism is used to dehumanise and people become referred to as simply as ‘cargo’. Arrival at death camps was the fate of the majority of the deported. Dixon describes the network of industrialised camps and their associated terrors as a ‘Landscape of Violence’. Successive archaeological, geophysical, anthropological, and memory-led investigations have illustrated the nature and reality of these camps. Dealing with the dead and the acute awareness of cultural sensitivities around the lives lost at these camps has led to a policy of minimal interference. However, large collections of personal items remain, as do the physical locations of execution and murder, such as the gas chambers, that allow study and analysis. Other sources of evidence are the recorded memory narratives of survivors, though living testimonials are becoming rarer with the passing years. Finally, Dixon briefly examined the legacy of art and memorials – many simple, elegant testimonials to those who perished in a time of violence and barbarity as part of these forced gatherings.

After a light lunch, the conference goers were entertained by Simon O’Dwyer of Ancient Music Ireland [Website | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | SoundCloud | YouTube]

No comments:

Post a Comment