CFP: Re-Visioning the Nation, 8th Cambridge Heritage Seminar (UK) (2/22/07; 5/12/07)

full name / name of organization: 
benjamin morris
contact email:

Re-visioning the Nation: Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Disaster
at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Saturday 12 May 2007

For nearly ten years the Cambridge Heritage Seminars have brought
together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to explore some of
the more pressing issues concerning cultural heritage today.

This year's seminar focuses on the uses and abuses of heritage by states
and societies as they emerge from crisis situations. Societies emerging
from a natural disaster, armed conflict or acute social and economic
crisis share many needs regarding their cultural heritage: restoring the
rule of law, integrating traumatic events into historical consciousness,
negotiating memories, limiting illicit trade and looting, and so on.
Some scholars have argued for a distinction between "life issues" and
"quality of life issues," suggesting that the former needs are more
pressing in a post-crisis situation. But this dichotomy collapses under
scrutiny: the values that inform the rebuilding of physical needs will
also inform the reconstruction of other dimensions of civic life, such
as the use of the recently traumatised past. In this light the
post-crisis situation can be seen as a dialectic in which the newly
formed (or fragmented) state offers a vision to its citizens of their
identity and heritage, and the citizens accept it, reject it, or make a
counter-offer in turn.

One domain in which this dialectic plays out is the visual
representation of the nation, its past, and its identity: new images
arise out of the ashes, and old ones are re-envisioned to satisfy the
agenda of the state. As part of the historical record, works of a
society’s cultural heritage are liable to be manipulated in this
process. An investigation of the ever-changing interpretation of
cultural heritage in post-crisis situations can help understand how such
material becomes instrumental in the reconstruction process,
illuminating how and why it is preserved, exhibited or destroyed. With
the international community (including UNESCO and a large number of
NGOs) becoming increasingly involved in the restoration and safeguarding
of cultural heritage in societies emerging from disasters, it is timely
to look at some of the issues this raises.

The 8th Cambridge Heritage Seminar solicits contributions addressing the
complexity and nuances found in these and related processes.
Contributions based on case studies are particularly welcome. Paper
presentations will be limited to 20 minutes; posters should contain a
mix of visual and verbal information and be no smaller than A2 size.
Some indicative questions of the type we hope to address are:

--How do states re-image the nation after natural disasters, economic
crisis, political or social conflict? How do they draw on history and
the material evidence of the past to do so? Do new symbols of power and
nation emerge? Does a revised vision of history become public history?

--What nation-building dynamics are in play in these post-disaster
moments? How are identities and perceptions of the past/present/future
reinterpreted? How does cultural heritage play a role in this process?

--What sites of memory or commemoration emerge, and how are they
interpreted or made to fit within the national narrative?

--How is the symbolic landscape of a place affected by disasters? How do
the politics of space play out? How are the urban and natural landscapes
re-mapped and their meanings altered?

Please send 500-word paper and poster proposals, or any further
enquiries, to Dacia Viejo-Rose at, or Benjamin Morris at Proposals should be sent as PDF or Word documents and
should include full contact information and a brief academic biography.
Deadline for proposals is 22 February 2007; acceptance will follow
shortly afterwards. For further information visit

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Received on Sun Feb 04 2007 - 13:30:23 EST

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