Kyle Olson: U.S.-Iran Relations through the Lens of Heritage Diplomacy

During the second Spotlighting an Author of Iran 1400 Project, anthropologist Kyle Olson presented a chapter from the book “American-Iranian Dialogues From Constitution to White Revolution, c. 1890s-1960s,” which will be released in July of 2021. This chapter, authored by Olson, is titled “U.S.-Iran Relations through the Lens of Heritage Diplomacy: The Case of the Iranian Antiquities Bill of 1930.”

The November 3, 1930 passage of the Iranian Antiquities Bill unlocked the door to United States involvement in the field of Iranian archaeology. In this online event, Kyle Olson analyzed the diplomatic struggles of this law that revealed the general character of U.S.-Iran bilateral relations during this time.

The Iranian Antiquities Bill created a new legal and diplomatic framework for the conduct of archaeology in Iran and the points of contention that emerged surrounding the bill continue to resonate to the present day.

Kyle Olson argues that during the interwar years, the United States extended its cultural, political, and economic reach, which afforded a greater degree of access for American archaeologists to countries such as Iran. He writes that “Even as American archaeologists established a relatively positive track record in the field of Iranian archaeology, the early period of this history was characterized by gross power imbalances.”

Kyle Olson further argues that the history of foreign expeditions conducted by American archaeologists, especially in the Middle East, should be understood in the context of the United States’ emergence as a superpower in the years after the First World War.

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