We are delighted to announce that Dr Hana Navratilova’s new book A Citizen of Nowhere, a biography of Egyptologist Jaroslav Černý, has recently been published. We spoke to Hana about her research and her thoughts on this latest publication.
Hana is both an Egyptologist and an historian. Both groups work along similar principles to forensic specialists, with only traces of past lives to provide insight. However, unlike the forensic teams, there are often traces modern scholars don’t know how to read yet. Experiencing places and landscapes provides valuable insight, however there are also reams of letters and documents to read. From governmental archives to private letters, from photographic record of artefacts to snapshots from a windy day on an excavation, there is much to disentangle.
As an Egyptologist, Hana works with ancient texts and artefacts from Egypt, to look more closely at ancient lives and how communities lived. Currently, she is working on a project that has a working title ‘biography of a pyramid’, which is concerned with monumental buildings and how the ancient Egyptians perceived and used them. But it asks other questions too – how does a building become a monument, and how may it die, and be revived again? From working sites to the sites of burial, worship and memory, to the sites of identity, to being material resources, to a transformation into heritage, the pyramids’ life runs a full circle illustrating humanity’s changing relationship with our history. There is a responsibility when talking and writing about past lives, and determining whose voice should be heard, and we owe it to the past to be open-minded and let it speak with its own voices: it may help to understand our present.
As an historian, Hana is not concerned only with the ancient world, but also in how we study it. Life-writing is well suited to the task of critical, but open-minded historiography, and Hana uses it in her own history teaching. Through life-writing one is faced with people and things as individuals and must ask demanding and uncomfortable questions. It is important to see events and other people from several different angles, which can bring us out of our comfort zone. Above all we must ask, what does ancient Egypt, its people, and its artefacts, mean for the modern world? Answering this requires a reading and re-reading of history, to reflect on how we use the past in our own lives and how we develop and replicate our research. Lives of researchers are relevant here, and this is where A Citizen of Nowhere comes in.
The new publication is a biography and chronological narrative of the Egyptologist Jaroslav Černý, who, like Hana, was an immigrant in the UK. The book was named A Citizen of Nowhere following Hana’s view that transnational lives have their place in our world and their stories are worth telling.
Congratulations to Dr Hana Navratilova on her exciting work. You can find A Citizen of Nowhere on the Peeters Publishers website.
Those wishing to explore Egyptology resources and records further can also visit the Griffith Institute Archive website.