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

11 December 2008 - 13 December 2008

The Fitzwilliam Museum/Gonville & Caius, The Stephen Hawking Building: Cavonius Centre (Theatre)


Professor Mary Jacobus (CRASSH)
Dr Joanna Kostylo (CRASSH)

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


Thur 11 Dec 2008

Fitzwilliam Museum, Seminar Room, Trumpington Street

17.45 - 18.45

Opening Lecture
Margaret Miles (American School of Classical Studies, Athens; UC Irvine)
Still in the Aftermath of Waterloo
Chair: Richard Hunter (Faculty of Classics)


Wine Reception

Fri 12 Dec 2008

Gonville & Caius College, The Stephen Hawking Building: Cavonius Centre (Theatre)
, West Road




Panel 1: The Laws of War and Cultural Policy
Chair: Simon  Goldhill (Classics, Cambridge) 

Roger O’Keefe (University of Cambridge)
Wartime Destruction of Cultural Heritage:
Punishment and Reparation under International Law

Jan Hladik (UNESCO)
The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its 1954 and 1999 Protocols: Challenges for UNESCO implementation

Patrick Boylan (City University, London)
Military Necessity is Very Much More than Military Convenience


Tea and Coffee Break


Panel 2: Destruction of Cultural Heritage: Iraq (I)
Chair: Alexander Bauer (Queens College, CUNY)

Harriet Crawford (UCL/Mcdonald Institute)
The Uses and Abuses of Heritage in Iraq

Saad Eskander (Iraq National Library and Archives)
Internal Uprisings and Foreign Invasion:
the Lootings and the Dispersal of  Iraq's official Documents, 1991-2008

David Myers (Getty Conservation Institute)
The GCI_WMF Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative:
Enhancing capacity for cultural heritage site conservation and management




Panel 3:  Destruction of Cultural Heritage: Iraq (II)
Chair: Richard  Hunter (Classics, Cambridge)

Maj Gen Barney White-Spunner (GOC 3 ( United Kingdom) Division)
How the Army and Academia can Work Together

Maj Hugo Clarke (Headquarters 3 (United Kingdom) Division)
OPERATION HERITAGE – An Iraqi cultural initiative

John Curtis (British Museum)
War in Iraq and Damage to Cultural Heritage


Coffee Break 


Panel  4: Cultural Heritage and its Vicissitudes
Chair: Nicholas Postgate (Near Eastern Studies,Cambridge)

Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly (Archaeologist - Journalist, Al Akhbar newspaper)
Heritage and Identity: Between Destruction and Reconstruction in Lebanon (from the civil war to July war of 2006)

András Riedlmayer  (Harvard University)
Cultural Heritage as a Target in War: Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo

Peter Stone (University of Newcastle)
Archaeology and Conflict: Uneasy Bedfellows?


Conference Dinner at Trinity Hall, The Graham Storey Room
19.15 - drinks
19.45 - dinner 


Sat 13Dec 2008

Gonville & Caius, Stephen Hawking Building, West Road 

9.30 - 11.00

Panel 5: Conflict, Iconoclasm, and the Museum
Chair: Gail Feigenbaum (Getty Research Institute)

Robert Knox (Former Keeper, Asia Department, British Museum)
Restoring the National Museum at Kabul: part of the process of building a peaceful civil society in Afghanistan

Alastair  Northedge (Université de Paris I)
Conflict in Iraq: the Case of Samarra

Oliver Urquart-Irvine (British Library)
Stewarding Property in a Post-Ownership World


Coffee Break


Panel 6: Contesting Culture: Afghanistan
Chair: Robert Knox (former Keeper, Asian Department, British Museum)

Jonathan Lee (Independent scholar)
A Shattered Visage’: Documenting Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage in a Time of Conflict

Jolyon Leslie (Aga Khan Foundation)
Culture and Contest in Afghanistan

Reinhard Bernbeck (SUNY Binghamton)
Who Has, and Who should Have, Power over the Past and its Remains?




Panel 7: Cultural Property and its Claims
Chair: Robin Cormack (Courtauld Institute)

Michael Barry (Princeton University and Metropolitan Museum, NY)
Whose Cultural Property? The Fate of the 11th-15th-century Shrine of Gazurgah in Herat

Tatiana Flessas (LSE)
The End of the Museum… is not yet

Marie-Louise Sorensen (Mcdonald Institute, University of Cambridge)
Wars of claims!

15.30 - 16.00 

Coffee Break


Round Table:
Robert Knox (Former Keeper, Asian Department, British Museum)
Harriet Crawford (Hon. Visiting Prof at UCL/Senior Fellow at the McDonald Institute, Cambridge)
Margaret Miles (American School of Classical Studies, Athens; UC Irvine)

Closing Discussion


Reception: Museum of Archaeology, Classics Faculty, Sidgwick Site