Culture and Conflict: A symposium

October 24th

United States Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave, Washington D.C.

From the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan to the desecration by ISIS of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, cultural heritage can act as a flashpoint for conflict. But cultural heritage also provides an opportunity in conflict and post-conflict contexts: for peace-building, social change, economic development.

Co-hosted by the United States Institute of Peace and the Smithsonian Institution, in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan’ at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, this symposium will bring together scholars, practitioners, and artists to explore the meaning and role of cultural heritage initiatives in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

Using post-2001 Afghanistan as a case-study and springboard for discussion, the symposium explores the various meanings of cultural heritage for local, national, and global communities. The symposium will explore the potential of cultural heritage initiatives for peace-building, social change, women’s empowerment, and economic uplift. It will also look at cultural heritage initiatives in a comparative perspective, seeking ‘lessons learned’ that can inform cultural heritage and development initiatives around the world.

This one-day conference will be divided into four sections. The first section will set the context for discussion with a wide-ranging treatment of the theories and scholarship on cultural heritage, the role of cultural heritage initiatives in conflict contexts, the opportunity and risks of such initiatives. The second section will use the last fifteen years in Afghanistan as a case-study of various approaches to cultural heritage preservation taken by local and international organizations. The third section will look at new developments in cultural heritage programming, from new forms of documentation to the use of new technologies and new media, and the role of diaspora communities in cultural heritage initiatives. The final section will look outward to provide comparative analyses of cultural heritage initiatives elsewhere in the world, seeking commonalities and noting differences in approaches and contexts.

By asking critical questions and sharing experiences across disciplines and cultures, the symposium aims to identify new ways for scholars, practitioners, communities, and artists to understand their work and increase its impact in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

For more information contact Bilal Askaryar: