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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.
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