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[OPIRG-EVENTS] Identicide: Warfare's Appetite for Symbolic Place


11 June 2002, Tuesday, 8:00 pm

Auditorium, Ottawa Public Library, 120 Metcalfe

Identicide: Warfare's Appetite for Symbolic Place

Sarah Jane Meharg, B.LA., M.A. (War Studies),
Ph.D. Candidate (Geography), Queen's University

None need to be reminded of the impact of the ravages of war. People, 
economies, and political systems all suffer, as do the material icons 
of cultural heritage. Revered places with historical, aesthetic, 
symbolic or scientific value are targeted. Their destruction is not 
so much collateral damage or a matter of military necessity but 
rather the intentional destruction or removal of landscapes during 
conflict with the intention of weakening cultural identity, of 
eroding what grounds people with place. Identicide may be applied to 
immovable vernacular property (the recent destruction of Jenin), as 
well as movable property (the burning of Ottoman manuscripts) in the 
Sarajevo National Library.

The destruction of the material indicators of cultural identity is a 
feature of modern, as well as ancient, warfare, even as the rest of 
the world attempts to preserve and protect sites of cultural heritage 
as part of our shared patrimony. Recognition as a nationally 
protected site or as a world heritage site may even lead to its 
demise during conflict, as seen in the systematic destruction of 
Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 1991.

This presentation will highlight the significance of 'landscape', 
attempts to protect landscapes during conflict, and two extraordinary 
cases of identicide in Bosnia and Afghanistan when protection failed: 
the destruction of the Bridge of Mostar in 1994, and the bombing of 
the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001. Ms. Meharg visited Bosnia and Croatia in 
the 2001 and will refer to this research trip during her 
presentation. As well, the modes and methods of post-war 
reconstruction will be introduced.

Ms. Meharg's recent publication, "Identicide and Cultural 
Cannibalism: Warfare's Appetite for Symbolic Place", Peace Research 
Journal 33:3 (2001), 89-98. Copies will be available.

Organized by National Capital Region Branch  (info@ncrb.unac.org)
of the United Nations Association in Canada (613)232-5751 ext.254
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