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Excavating the FutureArchaeology and Geopolitics in Contemporary North American Science Fiction Film and Television$
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Shawn Malley

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941190

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941190.001.0001

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(p.31) Chapter 1 Manticore
Excavating the Future

Shawn Malley

Liverpool University Press

Predicated on the infamous looting of the Baghdad Museum during the first week of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Tripp Reed’s telefilm Manticore (2005) is a "Babylonian" text that reverses the events and politics upon which its scenario is based—the destruction of antiquities in wartime—into a liberation story. In the film, U.S. Marines save Iraq from a legendary beast unleashed from its own archaeological past by a megalomaniacal terrorist claiming Babylonian ancestry. Wedding the (neo)imperialist rhetoric of archaeological stewardship in the "cradle of civilization" with military adventure, Manticore exemplifies how SF as a symbolic medium frequently capitalizes on (and thereby exposes) archaeology's latent complicity with geopolitical activity. The notion of the "archaeology-military complex" in Iraq—the absorption of archaeologists into military structures—provides an important critical context for the investigation of the ways values like heritage and stewardship promote Western interventions in the Middle East, activities that in turn provide diegetic materials for SF narratives

Keywords:   science fiction film and television, archaeology, geopolitics, archaeology-military complex, Manticore, Second Gulf War, Baghdad Museum, Iraq

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