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2017 Funded Research Projects

Anne C. Snider
PhD Candidate, Modern European History
Purdue University

The dissolution of the Habsburg Empire at the end of World War I resulted in the creation of several new nation-states, including the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, commonly referred to as Yugoslavia. The nationalist tensions that plagued the Habsburg Empire and led to World War I transferred to the new nation-state and periodically flared throughout its existence, most notably in World War II. During the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, Serb and Croat politicians pointed to this legacy and a supposed history of deep-seated hatred as justification for renewed ethnic violence.

An examination of Yugoslav postage stamps from 1918 to 1970 instead points to a long history of commemoration of cultural and historic commonalities as well as the celebration of ethnic differences within the multinational state. Government officials emphasized the importance of beautifully designed, high quality postage stamps and currency as “mirrors of the state.” They sought to educate a broad, multilingual domestic audience through visual imagery on the history and culture at home and to promote industrial and cultural achievements to an international audience as well. The state printing office commissioned the most renowned artists from across all regions of Yugoslavia to design postage stamps for domestic and international (air mail) circulation. By the time of the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s this complex narrative of a shared culture had been all but forgotten. This study explores the iconography and design process of Yugoslav postage stamps as conduits of culture and political ideology, and as a means to help foster ties to the state and across ethnic divides.

J. Eva Meharry
PhD Candidate, Department of Archaeology
University of Cambridge

In 1932 the Government of Afghanistan issued a 3-Afghanis postage stamp, depicting the colossal sixth-century CE Bamiyan Buddha statue in the First Definitive Monuments Series. In 1951 the state issued a second 20-Poul Bamiyan postage stamp in the Second Definitive Monuments Series. In both instances, the ulama, the conservative Islamic leaders, protested the depiction of the pre-Islamic statue, and the government quickly withdrew the stamps from circulation. Both incidents spoke to the complex relationship between archaeology and politics in Afghanistan.

Nation-Building and the Practice of Archaeology in Afghanistan examines how successive governments employed archaeology to promote their nation-building agendas in modern Afghan history from 1880 until 2001. The central research questions asked are: how do successive political administrations utilize archaeology in their nation-building agendas, and how do these agendas impact the development of the archaeological discipline in Afghanistan?

Postage stamps are a particularly valuable means to assess how successive Afghan governments employed archaeology, since they are often a highly politicized form of state-sponsored material. For instance, in the early twentieth-century, postage stamps were employed to promote Pashtunistan Day, a day created by the Afghan government to contest the border dividing Pashtun territory, an ethnic tribal region, along the North- West Frontier of then-British India. After Partition in 1947, Afghanistan issued annual postage stamps to recognize the United Nations, the organization primarily responsible for negotiating strained diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus, I will not only study the use of postage stamps within Afghanistan, but also with neighboring states–notably Pakistan, India, Iran, and Iraq–in order to understand how archaeological postage stamps may have been employed to promote political agendas at home and abroad.