Annual Meeting News

September 16, 2015

AM Workshop: Evidence and Emergency Responses to Cultural Heritage Destruction in the Middle East

“How can the international and academic community respond to the current destruction of cultural heritage occurring in the Middle East? The international regime of heritage protection during conflict rests upon an agreement that actors within the modern system of nation-states will refrain from damaging cultural heritage out of humanitarian concerns. But in the present crisis, one actor, the Is­lamic State rejects that system. The Syrian Arab Republic Government has also been implicated in extensive damage to historic and religious sites. The destruc­tion of cultural heritage accompanying intrastate and ethnonationalist conflict is a well-known but little studied phenomenon often designed to erase the presence and history of a rival social or ethnic group. Yet despite considerable scholarship directed toward violations of civil and political rights during these and other con­flicts, there is a general tendency to view damage to cultural heritage as an un­fortunate collateral outcome, rather than as a common tactic of intimidation and subjugation. Although prior research suggests that the purposeful destruction of cultural heritage may escalate a conflict, few studies have identified factors lead­ing to such an intensification. Furthermore, even less attention has been given to what measures may protect heritage sites and the people who care about them in conflict situations.

Successful interventions are rare, and, in the present crisis, there is an acute need to examine what factors might result in positive outcomes. This panel explores the destruction and protection of cultural heritage in the context of recent events in Syria and Iraq. In looking at the intentional destruction of cultural heritage, panelists will discuss the social dynamics involved, methods employed in documentation, emergency preservation interventions that have occurred or are currently underway, the legal implications of damage to cultural heritage, and the practical and ethical responsibilities of museums and other heritage professionals in crisis situations.”

MODERATOR: Katharyn Hanson, University of Pennsylvania

PANELISTS: Brian I. Daniels, University of Pennsylvania, Susan Wolfinbarger, AAAS, Cori Wegner, Smithsonian Institution, Susan Kane, Oberlin College, Salam al Kuntar, University of Pennsylvania, and Sarah Parcak, University of Alabama

Please reference the AM app in December for the exact time and location of the workshop.

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