Cultural heritage in conflicts and politics: Ethical dilemmas for archaeologists


Commentator: Yannis Hamilakis (Professor – University of Southampton)


We hereby invite interested researchers to participate, and we welcome contributions in form of presentations of c. 20 minutes related to the topics raised here. Please express interest by sending us a title or notifying us about participation. Further steps for collaboration will be discussed at the meeting.
Deadline for abstracts: 22.10.2015.
During the last years, cultural heritage in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East has been exposed to the ramifications of several crises that span the two regions. The following may be central case studies:
Plundering of museums and archaeological sites for illicit trading in antiquities in connection with war and looting as a means of financing war. This has happened in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage during conflicts has a great symbolic effect, such as in the case of the bridge of Mostar during the Balkan war, the Bamiyan Buddhas by Taliban and most recently the temples in Palmyra by ISIL.

The loss of cultural heritage in connection with controversial largescale development projects such as the Merowe Dam in Sudan, the Ilısu Dam in Turkey and the proposed dam building scheme on the River Vjosa in Albania.

The politicization of archaeology to different degrees in Greece, Turkey, Palestine/Israel, Egypt and Sudan.

The long-term power of cultural heritage to mend wounds after conflict and to be a reminder of our past and who we are.

Against this complex political background that can also be dangerous, as illustrated by the politically motivated murder of the Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, archaeologists are asked to make difficult decisions, although they have a small impact on political decision-making. How can we promote and safe-guard the cultural heritage without appearing as professionals caring more about dead objects and forgotten ruins in the face of the human tragedies that are unfolding in these places? Can archaeology and archaeologists be a positive force of change? We see a need for creating fora of dialogue and involvement. At the same time, concrete solutions should be found for the on-the-ground problems that archaeologists working in these regions face.
This round-table seminar aims at creating a forum for archaeologists based in Scandinavia for discussing these urgent issues.


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