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Chusseau-Flaviens, Jerusalem Juifs Se Rendant au Mur des Lamentations, ca.1900-1919





Heritage in Conflict and Consensus: New Approaches to the Social, Political, and Religious Impact of Public Heritage in the 21st Century

November 9 - 13, 2009

Elizabeth Chilton and Neil Silberman, Co-organizers

The UMass Amherst Center for Heritage and Society hosted an international workshop that took place over five days at the campuses of UMass Amherst, Massachusetts, and Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The public portion of the workshop was held at UMass Amherst on November 9-10. There was then a roundtable for invited participants and the Bard campus community on November 12-13.


Co-sponsored by:

With the Support of:

Invited Participants

  • Gustavo Araoz (President, International Council on Monuments and Sites)
  • Karel Bakker (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
  • Michael Blakey (College of William and Mary, USA)
  • Bruce Chilton (Bard College, USA)
  • Laia Colomer (Barcelona History Museum, Spain)
  • Brian Daniels (Penn Center for Cultural Heritage, USA)
  • Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
  • Amareswar Galla (University of Queensland, Australia)
  • Cornelius Holtorf (Kalmar University, Sweden)
  • Richard Leventhal (University of Pennsylvania, USA)
  • Dorothy Lippert (Smithsonian Institution, USA)
  • Andreas Pantazatos (University of Durham, UK)
  • Max Polonovski (Ministry of Culture, France)
  • Friedrich Schipper (University of Vienna, Austria)
  • Liz Sevcenko (International Coalition of Sites of Conscience)
  • Isabelle Vinson (UNESCO)
  • Elizabeth Ya'ari (PUSH for Peace, Israel-Palestine-Jordan)

About the Workshop

Throughout the world, historic districts, archaeological sites, religious monuments, ethnic traditions, and traditional customs—once cherished as timeless symbols of collective identity and continuity—have increasingly become the targets of violence and a source of discord. The destruction of the Mostar Bridge in Sarajevo, the obliteration of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the battle between Hindus and Muslims for the site of Ayodhya in India, the controversies over the Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem, and the looting of the Baghdad Museum are but a few recent examples of significant damage to cultural heritage in times of ethnic and religious conflict and state-to-state war.

Yet while the term “heritage in conflict” has been primarily associated with armed or violent conflicts, it should also be linked to the wider issues of conflicting interpretations or conflicting domains of intangible heritage that may endure even after violent conflict has ceased.

It has become increasingly clear in the 21st century that people, working in an increasingly multicultural environment, must be able to cope more effectively with contested heritage in city streets and rural regions—as well as on the battlefield. We must examine and understand the role of interpretation—not merely as the dissemination of objective facts about the past—but as a public means of reflection about the contemporary cultural significance of tangible and intangible heritage and the modern identities that are based on it. We should reexamine the processes of management, presentation, and heritage commemoration to assess their effectiveness in a world that is not made up of homogeneous, territorially discrete populations, with a single historical perspective, but a dynamically evolving mosaic of immigrant and diasporic communities, ethnic groups, and new nations living together in a globalized world.

This five-day workshop will offer global perspectives on selected themes of Heritage in Conflict and will develop a longterm working group to formulate research and policy agendas for the future. Participants will include specialists in historic preservation, architecture, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, conflict resolution, public history, and heritage management as well as leaders and representatives of affected communities from Europe, the Americas, South Africa, and the Middle East.

The goal of the workshop were threefold:

  1. To share the experiences of professionals involved in diverse heritage projects in areas and situations of conflict throughout the world.
  2. To discuss these projects in areas and situations of conflict as models for how to proceed in other areas and situations of conflict.
  3. To establish a permanent international working group and detailed agenda and work plan for further activities in regions and places where heritage continues to be an object of social, economic, religious, or political conflict.

The workshop included plenary presentations, round table discussions, and the formulation of a continuing work plan. The presentations and other proceedings of this event will be published in a special thematic issue of UNESCO Museum International.


The workshop will initiate a long-term theoretical and practical engagement in the following issues in international heritage practice—in all their regional and cultural variety:

  • Community— to what extent is heritage inherently conflictual? Has traditional heritage practice served to create boundaries rather than bridges between states, regions, and ethnic communities? To what extent is heritage inevitably a matter of “us vs. them”? This workshop theme will address the conflict or coexistence of distinct heritage identities in a globalized world.
  • Faith— religious traditions are often exclusive, but geographically overlap. As a consequence, religious monuments, places of worship, pilgrimage routes, and sacred places often become the objects of conflict and ownership dispute. How can heritage play a role in encouraging coexistence?
  • Diaspora—In a world of movement, migration, and cultural diversity, how can monuments and intangible heritage be honored and appreciated by scattered communities, often in very different cultural contexts? Can the history and traditions of immigrants become part of the heritage of the host country? How should diasporas preserve heritage links to their original homelands?
  • Burial, Ancestors, and Human Remains—All of these issues cross-cut a major issue of heritage conflict: who should care for the dead? As global development continues at a rapid pace, burials sites continue to be discovered, disturbed, destroyed, and/or studied. Often the legal guidelines for addressing the study and/or disturbance of human remains do not adequately address the ethical and social impacts on all stakeholders. What is the relationship between the wishes of the dead and contemporary memory communities?

Workshop participants presented case studies of ongoing conflicts in heritage practice in each of these themes. Discussions emphasized innovative approaches to assessment, mediation, and constructive engagement of the contending stakeholders and associated communities as a means to reach a workable consensus, even if a fully shared conception of heritage is not reasonably achievable.

The case study presentations were analyzed and discussed by the participants in breakout groups and roundtables. These discussions were prepared and led by participant facilitators and were summarized by a rapporteur for presentation at the concluding plenary session of the workshop.


Mon 9 November: Opening Session (UMass Amherst)

8:45-9:15 AMRegistration
9:15-10:15 AMOpening Plenary Session
  • Shared Heritage/Shared Challenges: Introduction of Main Workshop Themes
    Elizabeth Chilton, UMass Center for Heritage and Society, et al. (15 min)
  • Welcoming Remarks
    Robert C. Holub, Chancellor, UMass Amherst
    Robert Feldman, Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences UMass Amherst
    Teresa Keller, Executive Director, Archaeological Institute of America
    (20 min)
  • Shared Heritage/Shared Challenges: Introduction of Main Workshop Themes Elizabeth Chilton, UMass Center for Heritage and Society (10 min)
  • The Format and Goals of the Workshop
    Neil Silberman, UMass Center for Heritage and Society (10 min)
  • Heritage Across Borders and Boundaries: The View from Europe
    Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper, Technical University of Berlin (20 min)
10:15-10:45 AMCoffee Break
10:45-12:00 PM
  • The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict: Meeting the Standards of the 1954 Hague Convention and Going Beyond
    Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, Association of the National Committees of the Blue Shield (in absentia), and Friedrich Schipper, University of Vienna (20 min)
  • Sites of Conscience: New Approaches to Conflicted Memory
    Liz Sevcenko, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (20 min)
  • The PUSH Project: A Unique Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian Initiative
    Elizabeth Koch Yaari, Friends of the Earth – Middle East (20 Min)
12:00-1:30 PMLunch (Campus Center)
1:30-3:30 PMTourism, Local Communities, and Diasporic Attachments:
  • Moderator: Dr. George S. Smith Registered Professional Archaeologist
    Co-Chair SAA Heritage Values Interest Group
  • Research, Identity, and Tourism: The Context of Site Development at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa
    Michael Chazan, University of Toronto (20 min)
  • Negative Social Consequences of New Mexico's Ersatz Crypto-Jewish Claims: Results from the First Folkloristic-Genetic Study
    Judith Neulander, Case Western Reserve University, and Wesley Sutton, City University of New York (20 min)
  • Documenting an Ethno-religious Diaspora: The Russian Old Believers of Alaska
    Amber Lee Silva, McGill University (20 min)
  • Global Conversations: New Directions and Dialogues in African Diaspora Studies Whitney Battle-Baptiste, UMass Amherst (20 min)
3:30-4:00 PMCoffee break
4:00-6:00 PMLaw, War, and Globalization:
  • Moderator: Janet Rifkin, UMass
  • Dealing with the Past: Shared and Contested Narratives in 'Post-Conflict' north of Ireland/Northern Ireland
    Leah Wing, Legal Studies, UMass Amherst (20 min)
  • Stewardship and Community Building: A Partnership Approach in Regions of Conflict
    Laurie Rush, United States Army (20 min)
  • Communities of Conflict: The Intersection of the Global and the Local in Cyprus
    Diane Barthel-Bouchier, Stony Brook University (20 min)
6:00-7:30 PMDinner Break
7:30-8:30 PMWorking Session #1 (discussion open to all workshop participants):
Can There Be Heritage Without Conflict?

  • Moderator: Richard Leventhal, Penn Heritage Center
  • Discussants from the morning plenary: Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen and Friedrich Schipper, Liz Sevcenko, Elizabeth Koch Yaari

Tues 10 November (UMass Amherst)

8:45-9:15 AMRegistration
9:15-10:30 AM Communities: from Conflict to Consensus
  • Moderator: Amilcar Shabazz, Chair, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
  • Intangible Heritage and Community Identity in Post-Apartheid South Africa
    Karel Bakker, University of Pretoria (20 min)
  • The W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite Project, Great Barrington, MA
    Robert Paynter, UMass Amherst (20 min)
  • Rethinking the Meaning of “Authenticity”
    Gustavo Araoz, International Council on Monuments and Sites (20 min)
10:30-11:00 AMCoffee Break
11:00-12:00 PMWorking Session #2 (discussion open to all workshop participants):
Between Tourism and Community Identity: Who is In and Who is Out?

  • Moderator: Isabelle Vinson, UNESCO
  • Discussants: Karel Bakker, Robert Paynter, David Glassberg, and Gustavo Araoz
12:00-1:30 PMLunch (Campus Center)
1:30-2:30 PM Burial, Ancestors, and Human Remains
  • Moderator: Ventura Perez, UMass Amherst
  • The African Burial Ground: Paradigm for Cooperation?
    Michael Blakey, College of William and Mary (20 min)
  • Jewish Graves in Europe: Public Commemoration or Ritual Space?
    Max Polonovski, Ministry of Culture, France (20 min)
  • In the Name of the Ancestors: Native American Burials and the Law
    Dorothy Lippert, Smithsonian Institution (20 min)
2:30-3:30 PMWorking Session #3 (discussion open to all workshop participants):
Who Should Care for the Dead?

  • Moderator: Ventura Perez, UMass
  • Panelists: Michael Blakey, Max Polonovski, and Dorothy Lippert
3:30-4:00 PM Coffee break
4:00-5:30PM Case Studies in Heritage Community Engagement
  • Moderator: H. Martin Wobst, UMass Amherst
  • Cultural Exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History: Community Engagement, Intersubjectivity, and Meaning-Making
    Michael Atwood Mason, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, (20 min)
  • A Conflict of Interest: A Case Study for Community Archaeology in the Canadian Arctic
    Brendan Griebel, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto (20 min)
  • TBA
    Brian Daniels, Penn Cultural Heritage Center
6:00-7:30PM Public Lecture:
    Heritage in Afghanistan: Eight Years after Bamiyan
  • Amareswar Galla, University of Queensland

Bard Program

For invited participants, click here for the Bard portion of the program.


Publication of selected papers in UNESCO Museum International. Establishment of a website and on-line forum for working group. Selection of pilot projects and planning for further activities.


Abstracts are available to read by clicking on this link.

Center for Heritage and Society, 215 Machmer Hall, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003 phone: 413.545.2221  fax: 413.545.9494