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AbstractThis article builds on the notions of thick and thin description elaborated by Geertz and looks at what descriptive methods have been used in the field of papyrology, a sub-discipline of classics that studies ancient manuscripts on papyrus fragments recovered through legal and illegal excavations in Egypt from the 19th century. Past generations of papyrologists have described papyri merely as resources to retrieve ancient ‘texts’. In the article I argue these descriptions have had negative effects in the way this ancient material has been studied, preserved, and also exchanged through the antiquities market. Through a series of case studies, I offer an alternative description of papyrus fragments as things, which have a power that can be activated under specific circumstances or entanglements. In demonstrating papyrus manuscripts’ unstable nature and shifting meanings, which are contingent on such entanglements, the article calls for a new politics and ethics concerning their preservation and exchange.
CitationQualitative Research, volume 21, issue 3, page 376-393
DescriptionFrom SAGE Publishing via Jisc Publications Router
History: epub 2021-03-02
Publication status: Published