The destruction of cultural property represents an attack on a community’s history, cultural and religious activities and even identity, and can serve as a way to eliminate diversity and divergent historical narratives.
Recent years have seen an increase in incidences of intentional destruction of cultural property during conflict, for example in Iraq and Syria. While established legal frameworks outline the obligation to protect cultural property during conflict, there has been little consideration of the ways in which different actors can respond to and make reparations for destruction which has already occurred. One development has been the growing recognition of the need to criminalise and prosecute attacks on cultural heritage, as evidenced in international criminal tribunals such as the International Criminal Court. However, challenges remain for those who would seek to respond to such harms, both in terms of the appropriate legal frameworks to be used, and in relation to the practical and ethical challenges associated with the restitution and restoration of cultural property.
This sister project of the reparations grant contributes to this emerging discussion. It aims to develop a ‘thicker’ understanding of the impact of the destruction of cultural property on the affected communities. It will explore the practical challenges associated with protecting and restoring cultural property after armed conflict, and consider to what extent transitional justice processes can effectively respond to the harm caused by the destruction of cultural property.
Being aware of the the dangers associated with giving preferential treatment to the perspectives of elites over affected communities, the project will also analyse in whose interests’ reparative projects are designed and implemented, and will aim to challenge elitist perspectives by engaging directly with affected communities. The project is led by Dr Robin Hickey, with co-Investigators Dr Rachel Killean, Dr Dacia Viejo-Rose (Cambridge), Dr Luke Moffett, and Professor Ronan Deazley. The project is in partnership with the Documentation Centre in Cambodia (DC-Cam), where fieldwork was conducted in March 2017 (see their photo report).