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From Artifacts to People Facts: Archaeologists, World War II, and the Origins of Middle East Area Studies Open Access

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This dissertation traces the complex factors that influenced the World War II-era transition of some archaeologists and physical anthropologists who studied the ancient Middle East into roles that impacted U.S. policy towards the Middle East. The first chapter focuses on the archaeological expeditions and disciplinary practices that first exposed these social scientists to the inhabitants of the region that came to be known as the Middle East. Their experiences during the 1920s and 1930s influenced the opinions they formed and would later put to political use. The second chapter traces the various roles they took on in service of the U.S. government during the Second World War. Although many academics performed a variety of duties during the war, they were all united by a common belief: that academic knowledge of foreign peoples was going to be necessary in the postwar world. The third chapter analyzes two attempts, at the University of Chicago and Princeton University, to institutionalize the teaching of knowledge about the modern Middle East. Both efforts failed to fully implement the visions of their founding scholars, who each attempted to modulate the impact of some of the negative practices they had witnessed during their wartime government work. The fourth chapter argues that one archaeologist who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War exemplifies the cozy manner in which scholars and the U.S. government collaborated during the postwar period. That chapter analyzes the modifications the scholar made to his published work on Iran, changes that were made in light of his government activities there.

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