Can less be more? Heritage in the age of terrorism

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Can less be more? Heritage in the age of terrorism

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Public Archaeology


Holtorf, Cornelius

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Abstract: Western civilization does not have a particularly good track record of saving cultural heritage from destruction, but in recent centuries it has surrounded itself with a rather firm ideology of conservation and preservation. This paper is meant as a caution against a fundamentalist ideology of heritage-preservationism. It discusses some inherent contradictions in how heritage is treated in the modern world, some mutually exclusive ways of consuming heritage involving both destruction and preservation, and some double standards regarding the appreciation of drastic destruction in the past and the condemnation of vandalism and iconoclasm in the present. It is argued that the current appeal of preservation is more a product of history than the appeal of history could be said to be a product of preservation. Destruction and loss are not the opposite of heritage but part of its very substance. It is not the acts of vandals and iconoclasts that are challenging sustainable notions of heritage, but the inability of both academic and political observers to understand and theorize what heritage does, and what is done to it, within the different realities that together make up our one world.

Additional tags: heritage conservation and preservation; sustainable heritage; destruction of cultural heritage


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