Theresa May, British Prime Minister, AKA Margaret Thatcher 2.0, recently gave a ‘lesson’ on the definition of citizenship at the Tory Party Conference. According to May:
“[I]f you believe you’re a citizen of the world you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”
For many of us, global citizenship is something that we cherish. I’m sure this is true for all sorts of professions, but especially for archaeology which often involves travelling to other countries for fieldwork, as well as tertiary education and conferences. If, like me, you’re British with a particular interest in Aegean archaeology, then naturally you’re going to end up living and working in another country. Moreover, archaeological projects often involve collaboration between specialists originating from all over the world. This is the case on the project I’ve been involved with in the Cyclades for the past six weeks, and I’ve experienced first-hand how much that has enriched my personal and professional experience here.
Usually, I work as a commercial archaeologist in London, a role which you wouldn’t necessarily think would also instill the importance of world citizenship. Actually, the reverse is true; I’ve had Polish, Italian and Canadian colleagues.
Historically, archaeology has been employed for nationalistic purposes, and it still can be today. However, the international nature of archaeological fieldwork in the contemporary work has in my experience lent itself to opening conceptual borders, rather than closing them. Thus, if being a citizen of the world really means being a citizen of ‘nowhere,’ then I’ll proudly be that citizen. Writing this post in Greece, I find some irony in the fact that the term ‘utopia’ was coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 from the Greek οὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”) and thus literally means”no-place.” In which case, to be a citizen of ‘nowhere’ means to be a citizen of a utopia, a place which transcends the fractured, bitter ‘citizenship’ of one tiny island.
Perhaps any utopia is idealistic and rooted in fantasy, but so is May’s definition of citizenship which clings to out-dated nationalistic ideals.
I’m a British citizen. I’m a world citizen. I’m an archaeologist. These categories are not mutually exclusive.
I’m also a citizen of ‘nowhere’, that ‘no-place’ which holds all the ideals and dreams of humanity past and present. You should visit sometime.