Welcome to the companion website for the exploratory seminar History under the Sword: Tracking Cultural Heritage Destruction, Human Migration, and the Dynamic Nature of Conflict in Iraq, which was held at Harvard on 9-10 July 2015. We are very excited for the workshop and we look forward to seeing everyone soon. Please feel free to explore this website. We will work with the Radcliffe Institute staff to make sure that the most up-to-date information is installed. Thank you.
The violence engulfing Iraq today is absolute. In the land where history was first written, the complete erasure of millennia of cultural heritage, record, and ethnic pluralism is underway. Indeed, the citadel in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, is at least 8,000 years old and represents the oldest continually-inhabited location on earth. In less than a decade, these legacies are being lost in the fighting and violent milieu of forming and dissolving tactical alliances. It is the responsibility of those concerned by the wholesale destruction of identities, culture, heritage, and history—and the ways of life they represent—to understand the extent of this tragedy and its implications in a region where its effects are most immediate and ever developing. The need to track this cultural heritage destruction, and the memories held by groups within a region under threat, is critical. This seminar brings together scholars from Iraq and the United States to discuss and refine methods by which these histories can be collected and archived under the extreme dangers posed by armed groups. Participants are also discussing the theoretical underpinnings of such work; producing definitions of “cultural heritage,” “cultural destruction,” and “narrative displacement”; and considering the linkages between “cultural destruction” and forced human migration that will further refine the project’s methodology. The larger work ultimately aims to collect statistics of the numbers of people, cultural sites, communities, towns, etc., destroyed, captured, displaced, or erased by the violence; identify perpetrators and victims of each attack or instance of violence; and follow the ongoing military operations at a tactical level.