In his critical review of Archaeology and National Identity in Italy and Europe 1800-1950 (BMCR 2009.09.75) Catalin Pavel disqualifies these proceedings in his first sentence as ”an innocent book on a wicked topic”. As debate is one of the principal tasks of any scholar, we welcome his remarks and criticism, taking full responsibility for errors and typos. A reviewer, however, should properly inform the readers on the theme(s) and scholarly positions expressed in the volume under review. Any criticism, furthermore, should be formulated in a fair way. Since we, the editors, feel that Pavel’s review does not fulfill these basic requirements, we take the opportunity to briefly clarify the aim of the roundtable discussion and some of the results published in these proceedings.
Whilst tenaciously treating the volume as a monograph and offering only brief, inadequate summaries of the contributions, Pavel makes very clear he does not like the approach as set out in the introduction of these proceedings. He deplores the ”absence of theoretical models” and condemns the ”naïve” way in which nationalism is reproduced in an essentialist way instead of being deconstructed critically. As we are well aware of the problem of the self-evident character that nationalism often had in the eyes of the contemporary beholder, we deliberately did not choose to introduce a static a priori concept of ‘nationalism’. Nor did we explicitly state ”what the theoretical model for the relationship between nationalism and archaeology is”, as Pavel would have wanted it. Our approach was a different one. We invited scholars (archaeologists, historians and art historians) from different countries (Italy, Germany, France, Unites States, the Netherlands) to explore how archaeologists and archaeological research agendas produced and/or reproduced national identities of various western countries in regional, national and international contexts in the 19th and early 20th centuries. To what extent these national identities created, or were the result of, ‘nationalism’ can only follow from such micro-historical explorations. The purposefully chosen focus on Italy allowed for a discussion on localized competing interpretations of the past (and even claims to that past), from different ‘national’ points of view. The role of both foreign and Italian institutions as well as the positions, mentalities, scholarly ideals and choices of individual scholars with different national backgrounds have been explored, picturing complex and dynamic configurations, sometimes even straight contradictions.
It is exactly this approach that makes clear, that the ”dangerous dance of archaeology and national identity” (an expression used by Pavel) in reality has been very complex and cannot be fixed in simplified moralistic schemes. Therefore, we do hope that readers will judge for themselves whether or not the volume needs to find its niche in the abundant literature on archaeology, national identity and nationalism.