My trip to Prague this past summer forced me for the first time to consider the ongoing debate about the place of Confederate monuments in public spaces within an international context. We would do well to remember that other nations have faced and/or are currently dealing with divisive questions surrounding memorial/commemorative landscapes. Many of these debates reflect divisions with deep historical roots that easily surpass those that can be traced to our own civil war.
This morning I came across a couple of videos from the CRIC Research Project on a friend’s social media page. Here is a description of the project:
Recent conflicts in Europe, as well as abroad, have brought the deliberate destruction of the heritage of others, as a means of inflicting pain, to the foreground. With this has come the realisation that the processes involved and thus the long-term consequences are poorly understood. Heritage reconstruction is not merely a matter of design and resources – at stake is the re-visioning and reconstruction of people’s identities! This project aims to investigate the ways the destruction and subsequent selective reconstruction of the cultural heritage impact identity formation. The project seeks to illuminate both the empirical and theoretical relationship between cultural heritage, conflict and identity. In particular, it will examine how destruction as well as reconstruction affect notions of belonging and identities at different scales ranging from the individual to the pan-national. Five regional case studies will provide historical depth, variation, and different trajectories, while the shared methodologies and axes of investigation will ensure comparative measures are reached. Collectively the project will aim to answer the following questions:
what conditions and ideologies inspire the destruction of cultural heritage and what is selected for destruction?
what are the consequences at local, national and regional levels of such destruction and the subsequent reconstruction of parts of people’s heritage?
The videos explore specific places that experienced both the destruction of public memorials and other commemorative landscapes and the attempt to re-build around a shared narrative. I was particularly struck by the story of Bosnia, which points to the limits of the construction of a shared heritage can be.
There is a lot we can learn and I highly recommend taking the time to view them. I suspect that they will make great teaching tools as well. Thanks to Noel Harrison for bringing this project to my attention.