Friday, 18 September 2015

ISIS, Heritage, and the Spectacles of Destruction in the Global Media

Ömür Harmanşah, 'ISIS, Heritage, and the Spectacles of Destruction in the Global Media', Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 78.3 (2015)
Abstract: [...] In this paper, I focus on ISIS’s destruction of archaeological heritage. I argue that this destruction can be seen as a form of place-based violence that aims to annihilate the local sense of belonging, and the collective sense of memory among local communities to whom the heritage belongs. Therefore, heritage destruction can be seen as part and parcel of this scorched-earth strategy described above. I also argue that the Islamic State coordinates and choreographs these destructions as mediatic spectacles of violence aimed at objects and sites of heritage, and these spectacles take place as re-enactments or historical performances that are continuously and carefully communicated to us through ISIS’s own image-making and dissemination apparatus that increasingly utilizes the most advanced technologies of visualization and communication. I will also pose questions about the relatively weak responses from the archaeological community around the world that rarely went beyond the stereotypical expression of “dismay” to ISIS’s heritage destruction. At the same time, I will try to answer the why and how of ISIS’s dislike of archaeological heritage in the context of late capitalism.
If these arguments are accepted, it means that "saving" bits of the smashed past by transporting them to distant lands with alien cultures is no less a form of 'place-based violence' and re-enactment of historic colonial power dynamics ("in the context of late capitalism").


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