Accepted Paper:

The Affective Violence of Cultural Heritage Destruction in Iraq and Syria  
Sofya Shahab (Deakin University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore local relationships to and perceptions of the destruction of heritage in Iraq and Syria. Drawing on ethnographic research, it will establish how violence against groups' material culture can generate embodied affect that transcends time and space, and the impacts this has.

Paper long abstract:

The construction and destruction of monuments has long been used by those who seek or hold power as a tool to cultivate desired historical narratives that support their political agendas. In Iraq and Syria, the intentional destruction of cultural property has been viewed as a form of genocide against specific peoples: as Robert Bevan convincingly argues, it is through the targeting of landscapes that enemy peoples can be dominated, terrorized, divided, or eradicated (2016: 210). Utilizing extracts from oral histories created in collaboration with Syrian and Iraqi refugees residing in Jordan and Lebanon, this paper will explore local relationships to and perceptions of 'heritage' sites. Through ethnographic encounters, it will establish how violence against groups' material culture can generate embodied affect that transcends time and space, and the impacts this has on the lived experiences of targeted populations. As such, this paper will argue that the visual culture of groups such as the Islamic State - who broadcast their images of destruction through conventional and social media channels - operates in thoroughly contemporary ways and engages in modern exertions of power that serve as a form of warfare. Additionally, it will refocus attention on those who are most directly impacted by the destruction of their heritage and contribute to current understandings of - and scholarship on - how wars are waged and how violence is experienced in an increasingly connected world.

Panel P088
Deliberate Destruction of Cultural Heritage