The 'Egyptianisation' of Nubia: a historiographical review of a persistent concept in Egyptology
From as early as the Nineteenth Century, ancient Nubia has been viewed through an Egyptological lens. Consequently, Egypto-centric perspectives have often underpinned the study of Nubia with cultural achievements and complexity recognised only in relation to ancient Egypt’s role in the colonisation of Lower Nubia. This perspective has contributed to an enduring disciplinary perception of Nubia as secondary to ancient Egypt, which is itself viewed by Egyptology as the superior and dominating agent. A critical part of this approach has been Egyptology’s use of the term ‘Egyptianisation’, which refers to the supposedly unidirectional process of Nubian cultural change following contact with Egypt. This concept has underpinned scholarly approaches to the study of Nubian and Egyptian interactions for over a century. Recent research has questioned the relevance of ‘Egyptianisation’, suggesting its replacement with a counter-colonial model of ‘cultural entanglement’. Despite this revision, the broader impact of Egyptology’s use of the Egyptianisation model on disciplinary approaches to Nubia needs further consideration. Consequently, this thesis provides a historiographical review of ‘Egyptianisation’ by investigating its origins, theoretical development and assumptions in order to determine what features of Egyptianisation remain in current approaches to Nubian and Egyptian intercultural contact. Despite growing recognition of the colonial and Egypto-centric nature of Egyptianisation, the concept persists in some current academic discourse. Specifically, the assumption that Nubians aspired towards Egyptian cultural practices remains in scholarly discussions surrounding periods of colonial contact. Furthermore, ancient Nubian social identities are still defined against their Egyptian counterparts. The results of this analysis suggest that simply replacing a problematic concept in historiography, or even abandoning it, does not necessarily recognise or repair its influence on a discipline. Furthermore, the significance of these findings has the potential to extend beyond the discipline of Egyptology and concerns current Nubian people today with implications for their historical agency and representations of their cultural identities.