[P6467] Reimagining heritage in the Middle East and North Africa: whose voices count?

Created by Sofya Shahab
Tuesday, 11/30/21 2:00 pm


Heritage provides material and emotional anchor points that enable communities and their leaders to shape identities. As a result, the construction and destruction of heritage has been an ongoing feature in contests to control peoples and territories (Bevan 2016 [2006]: 210). However, in the last decade the deliberate destruction of heritage in the Middle East and North Africa has become an area of increasing critical attention. From the targeted destruction wrought by Daesh to Trump’s threats against Iranian cultural sites, the ability and role of the international community in preserving cultural sites and practices has been called into question. While a majority of commentary has focused on the universal value of heritage and the significance of its loss at an international level, this panel highlights the necessity of refocusing attention on those who have most directly been impacted by this destruction. In doing so, it emphasises the centrality of understanding the meanings of heritage in communities’ narratives of identity, agency, and what it tells us about how they are experiencing shifting dynamics of power at multiple levels.

With case studies from Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, the panel explores what it means to decolonise understandings of and approaches to heritage in the Middle East and North Africa. As such, it investigates the implications of foregrounding people’s narratives with regards to the values, meanings and responses embedded within heritage and how the tangible is intimately intertwined with the intangible. By interpreting heritage as being embroiled in practices, this panel questions how individual and community relationships are formed through and to cultural sites. This has important implications for how heritage is identified, preserved and rehabilitated. With rebuilding already underway in Iraq and Syria, this panel asks how places are prioritised and communities engaged in reconstruction initiatives and the impacts and implications this has on physical and existential displacements, emigration, and potentialities for peace. Consequently, it investigates how commitments to the safeguarding of intangible heritage can be incorporated into the reconstruction of tangible sites and the significance this has in the continuation and preservation of communities – especially those which have been in decline in the Middle East and North Africa.


Organized under the auspices of the Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development


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Elizabeth Prodromou

(Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Benjamin Isakhan

(Deakin University)
Dr Benjamin Isakhan is Australian Research Council (DECRA) Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalization and Convenor of the Australian Middle East Research Forum at Deakin University, Australia. Previously, Ben has been Research...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Mariz Tadros

(Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sofya Shahab

(University of Sussex)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;