Header Palmyra Concert Panoramio

Seminar: Uses of Heritage in International Security and Politics

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The fact that cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, is part and parcel of national and international conflicts is widely recognised. However, little research has been done to develop insights into the way in which cultural heritage is entangled in political and military strategies. Indeed, this goes beyond the destruction of physical places, as we see in times of kinetic conflict, and also includes strategies to influence and destabilise communities and nations through, for example, the weaponisation of historical and cultural narratives. The latter has been observed during the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and has a strong role in the current war in Ukraine.

This interdisciplinary seminar brings together scholars from history, archaeology, heritage studies, and international security to discuss the importance of understanding how cultural heritage is a political tool in contemporary conflicts. Together, they will also reflect on the role that international organisations could take up in this matter.

Overall, this seminar aims at discussing, both in theory and practice, the challenges of understanding culture and cultural heritage as topics of importance in international politics and security debates; and contributing to the conceptualisation of heritage and history as ‘weapons’ in international conflicts.


13:30  Opening

Welcome by Dr Maria Bonaria Urban, KNIR

Introduction by Ankie Petersen, Consultant in Cultural Heritage Management and Military CPP officer in the Dutch Armed Forces


13:40  Round 1: Heritage as a Weapon in 21st-century Conflicts

Presentation 1: Weaponizing Cultures: Uses of Heritage during the War in Ukraine – Dr Julie Deschepper, Assistant Professor in Heritage and Museum Studies, Utrecht University

Presentation 2: Why Militaries should care about Cultural Heritage Exploitation – Dr Dan Shultz, Research Fellow NATO Defense College, Rome

Presentation 3: Working with the Military: Productive Partnerships for Heritage Protection – Dr Laurie Rush, Army Archaeologist & Cultural Resource Manager, US Army


14:30  Panel discussion with Q&A


14:50  Break


15:10  Round 2: challenges to heritage protection in (inter)national security and politics

Presentation 1: Russia, Heritage and Hybrid Threats – Dr Frederik Rosen, Nordic Centre for Heritage and Conflict, Copenhagen

Presentation 2: World Heritage and the Emerging Heritage/ Security Nexus at NATO – Professor Lynn Meskell, Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor, University of Pennsylvania,

Presentation 3: Cultural Heritage, Mass Atrocities and Accountability – Dr Andrea Cayley, International Human Rights expert and Director of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Washington D.C. Programs


16:10  Panel Discussion with Q&A


16:30  Closing Remarks


© image (square): During a fierce pro-European rally in 2013, police protected a statue of Lenin in Kyiv. (bron foto Wikimedia Commons)
© image (banner): Russia’s Valery Gergiev conducts a concert in Palmyra ruins, which were recaptured from Islamic State (IS) in March. (bron foto Wikimedia Commons)


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