The Philae Controversy – Muscular Modernization and Paternalistic Preservation in Aswan and London

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  • Department of the History of Ideas
In 1882, the British occupied Egypt. A decade later British Egyptologists successfully spearheaded an international campaign against a scheme to dam the Nile at Aswan—a project that would result in the flooding of the Island and Temples of Philae. The article analyses the campaign to preserve Philae as it unfolded at the Foreign Office in Downing Street, in Egyptologists circles in Britain, among British administrators in Cairo, and in public spheres in late-Victorian London. Introducing the terms muscular modernization and paternalistic preservation the article analyses the tensions that the Philae controversy revealed in British imperial ideologies in relation to questions of modernity and tradition. Drawing on a uniquely well-preserved archival record the article demonstrates how the protection of what we now call global heritage was negotiated before the birth of UNESCO.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Pages (from-to)203-220
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

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