Organized Panel Session
A narrative commonly found within the discourse of nationalist archaeology is the polemic of ideology at the expense of empiricism. There are many examples of the manipulation of archaeological data in the service of the state’s nationalist or imperialist ideology, and such efforts produce narratives in which archaeology is treated as inherently apolitical. These narratives rely on a monolithic dichotomy of state/ non-state political actors with uniform motivations and agendas, which masks the inherent complexity of the relationship between political power and the production of knowledge vis-à-vis cultural heritage. This paper explores the interactions between and within multiple stakeholders –the state, archaeologists, and the media – and their roles in the construction of national myths, and their consequences for local populations. It highlights recent controversies surrounding the re-interpretation of the megalithic site of Gunung Padang in Western Java, Indonesia. The case of Gunung Padang, a site that was intensively researched in 2011-2014 after a state official claimed the site housed the oldest ‘civilization’ in the world, offers an opportunity to observe how national myths are both constructed and contested in recent times. This paper argues that the intersections between archaeology and popular media contributed to a skewed understanding of the past and generated specific categories of acceptable national myths which, in turn, directed nationalistic research. At stake is not only the integrity and the empirical interpretation of the site, but also the livelihood of the local community, which is tied to the economic potential of the site.