As a child, I was brought up in a very religious family and community. We were always involved in church and for a long time my mother was interested in archaeological finds that supported the bible. I grew up believing that all historians checked the bible for facts, something my mother still believes yet I cannot recall where this idea came from because it’s not true. However as I got older I realized that my mom, and other people in our church often only searched out information that supported what they already believed. Which is essentially what Nadia Abu El-Haj is talking about in translating truths.
The Israel nationals are searching for historical and archaeological evidence that supports their legitimacy for claiming Jerusalem, and supporting the religious beliefs that surround their culture. The benefits for this surpass simply wanting to justify their religious myths but bring political benefits and economical benefits. and they are willing to administer bad science to do so.
Nadia talked about the use of bulldozers, which caused me to lament for all the lost information which was destroyed because they wanted to get to the iron-age faster. To top it off the interpretation of findings were often biased, such as that of the burned house. the finding of a forearm and spear where used to justify something they already thought. so they added things to the findings that simply cannot be proven by archaeological findings. They even suggested they had the day, month, and year the house had burned based on ash from the house, when ash cannot even date an exact year let alone month or day! And so now I am left to question all of the archaeological “proof” for biblical text because I don’t know just how biased the excavators were while doing the dig.
I really enjoyed the stories throughout these 2 chapters. This seems like a book I would have picked up to read for enjoyment rather than a class assignment! however I wish that the author, Lila Abu-Lughad, would have expanded on some of the stories and cultural references. Sometimes she would mention something offhand without explaining what it was and I felt like I was missing out on something that everyone in the stories where understanding. But this was only a small annoyance and did not keep me from understanding the entire story.
I found the stories about Shock the most interesting. Especially because this emotional feeling will have very serious physical effects on people in the culture. This is not something we have or even find acceptable in our culture. When parents lose a child I have never heard of them not being able to conceive again. or emotional shock keeping a woman from giving birth. Especially the story of the women who claimed that shock had stopped the fetus at 4 months, and later was brought back 13 years later as a cause to shock. I wonder if there has been any studies on how emotions can effect someone physically?
Another aspect of the same story I found very peculiar was the mixture of superstition and religion. All of the different practices women used to conceive. I don’t believe that any of these are a part of Islam but these women have been passing this information down to each other for years and no one thinks it’s sinful.
At the beginning of my freshman year in college, I started dating a young man from Turkey. While reading Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul” I was reminded of the same strange love for the country my ex-boyfriend had. by strange I mean he was at times distancing the country from it’s history and declaring himself proud of the history and culture. He would randomly tell me stories about the Ottoman Empire, how they ruled much of the world. He would tell my of the different Ottoman artifacts his mom had saved up as wedding gifts for his future wife. And after telling me these fantastic and almost exotic stories of his culture and country, he would insist that Turkey was very modern and just like any other European country.
Orhan does something similar in his book. By contrasting the old mansions that everyone used to live in with the modern family apartment in which he now resides. This contrast was especially noticeable when he talked about the western sitting room every family had when he was young. The sitting rooms were like museums to him, and it represented westernization. However no one new what westernization was good for, but they all did it. They gave up the traditional pillow clad lounging rooms for western living rooms with pianos no one could play and china plates no one could touch.
The way I saw it, they were pretending to be “western” ,whatever that means, until it became true. So this probably explains why that ex-boyfriend from Turkey was so offended when I asked him If Turkey was a middle eastern country or considered apart of Europe. His answer confused me then but after reading these short stories I think I better understand why he said “Turkey is neither and it is both.”