Saturday, 2 April 2016

Looking at Palmyra

British TV reporter Lindsey Hilsum spent a day touring Palmyra and is the first British TV reporter to have filmed inside both the ruins and the modern town (Channel 4 News, 'Palmyra: theatre of ISIS brutality re-captured'). The pictures from the modern city (1:47-2:14) show extensive damage and deserted streets, giving the feeling that it will be a long time before the place returns to normal life.

posted on You Tube by Channel 4 News 01.04.2016

There is a discussion of the pros and cons of rebuilding the blown-up buildings, with archaeologist Joanne Farchackh making a good point about the relationship between the ruins and the modern inhabitants of the place:
"The identity of Palmyra can't be the same any more. It is true, Palmyra is a World Heritage Site, but by now Palmyra is a site that has witnessed massacres, four hundred people have been killed inside the Roman theatre. People will not look at this site again, as it was before. Now it is a place where there is blood, the ruins have blood on them, and it is modern blood, not old blood. Can we treat it the same way as if this never happened before?"
This brings up the question of which past, whose past, we commemorate. In the case of Palmyra, is it "our, common" (Roman) past which is more important than the local past of the inhabitants of Tadmor, for whom the state of the ruins is today a place of memory connected with recent trauma. Is not a decision to rebuild an attempt to impose our own narrative (of 'victory') over the local experience? But whose heritage is Palmyra, ours or theirs? 

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