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Culture Wars: Heritage and Armed Conflict in the 21st century

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact anna malinowska.

Closing date for registration is 5 December 2008. Fees range from £20 - £60. See here:

Warfare and civil strife of the sort recently witnessed in the Balkans and the Middle East become crucibles in which core convictions about identity are boiled down to their essential elements. As material manifestations of culture, sites and monuments are at once metaphorical weapons and physical casualties of war. Situations of intense conflict challenge our assumptions about the role of institutions as ‘Keepers of Culture’ and give rise to seemingly insoluble contradictions. Focusing on boundaries, networks, and cultural transmission, this combined CRASSH , Getty Research Institute, and Macdonald Institute conference offers a timely opportunity to test ideas and responses to the acute circumstances created by civil and political conflict.

Controversies arise when heritage sites are simultaneously viewed as cultural, religious, aesthetic, and educational artifacts. At once ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’, competing ideas of heritage are mutually exclusive, while fragile conceptual polarities such as local and universal tend to collapse. The fraught intersection of material heritage, local geopolitics, and the universalist mission calls for an urgent reevaluation of how we manage ‘Culture’ in a culturally fragmented world. With growing frequency, war is not confined to nation-states, but involves ethnic, sectarian, and insurgent groups that cross or contest political boundaries. The conference examines issues raised during and after the Gulf, Balkan, and Afghanistan Wars, with a focus on what (paradoxically) is known as ‘immovable’ heritage: historical monuments, archaeological sites, and cultural and human landscapes. It poses the following questions:

• How does the nature of 21st-century conflict bear on immoveable heritage? • Are international conventions appropriate to recent scenarios? • Why are sites destroyed and to what ends? • Is intervention ethically justifiable? • What are the appropriate uses of expertise? • Does the intensity of the contest over heritage open paths to reconciliation? • What new approaches to knowledge sharing can help bridge divides? • What is involved in stewarding culture in a post-ownership world?

Responding to a growing concern about on endangered sites in the Middle East and elsewhere, the conference will focus on the following main themes:

• Cult and Culture: Iconoclasm and the Museum • Iconoclasts And Idolators: the Destruction Of Cultural Heritage. • The Laws of War and Cultural Policy: Transnational and Internal Disputes • Contemporary Conflicts and the Ethics of Intervention • Culture and Conciliation: Stewarding Culture in a Post-Ownership World

Confirmed speakers include:

Abbas Alhussainy (Former Chair of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage) Michael Barry (Princeton University) Reinhard Bernbeck (Binghamton University (SUNY)) Patrick Boylan (City University, London) Hugo Clarke (Headquarters 3 (United Kingdom) Division) John Curtis (British Museum) Saad Eskander (Iraq National Library) Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly (Archaeologist – Journalist, Al Akhbar newspaper) Tatiana Flessas (LSE) Dario Gamboni (Université de Genève) Jan Hladík (UNESCO) Jonathan Lee (Researcher and Cultural Advisor) Jolyon Leslie (Aga Khan Foundation) Margaret Miles (UC, Irvine) David Myers (Getty Conservation Institute) Alistair Northedge (Université de Paris I) Roger O’Keefe (Cambridge) András Riedlmayer (Harvard University) Marie-Louise Sorensen (McDonald Institute) Peter Stone (Newcastle University) General Barney White-Spunner (GOC 3 ( United Kingdom) Division) Oliver Urquhart-Irvine (British Library)

This talk is part of the CRASSH events series.

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