The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict by Christopher Herndon and Joris Kila

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MWSA Review

Though only 134 pages long, "The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict" is a surprisingly thorough examination of the reasons behind the destruction of culturally significant sites, artifacts, and living creatures in times of conflict and of the institutions and laws in place. The authors provide not only numerous examples, but also identify relevant institutions and international laws devoted to protecting them. They also examine the diverse motivations behind the devastation of looting, trafficking, and outright destruction, and how even the language used to describe such incidents has evolved and become a point of contention. The many recent examples mentioned in the book highlight the scope of the problem and how urgent is to find solutions to solve it. "The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict" is a good primer for someone looking to better understand this international tragedy.

Review by Dwight Zimmerman (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict: Military involvement in the protection and devastation of Cultural Property.

The world’s cultural heritage is currently not only threatened by time, nature, and human development and also increasingly by armed conflicts. We see destructions caused by looting and illicit traffic but also iconoclasm and manipulations of cultural heritage for political, religious, economic, and propaganda reasons. Revenues derived from the illegal selling are often used to finance conflicts as illustrated in the Da’esh business model example in this publication. Cultural Property Protection (CPP), while legally mandatory under national and international law, are poorly implemented and sanctions are rarely enforced. There is however, a constant and international demand for education and outcomes of multidisciplinary research on the topic, especially in the context of conflict and crime.

Research must include military perspectives, and common mechanisms connected to abuse and protection. Outcomes should contain academic conceptualization, as well as practice based solutions to diminish and mitigate damage. To meet demands while expanding, and following up on their previous works, the authors wrote this publication. It contains a selection of case examples and incorporates recent developments and trends. All ingredients serve to feed research and dialogue about the use and abuse of cultural heritage especially in the event of conflict, with a focus on cooperation and coordination between civil stakeholders and military parties.

A selection of identified fundamental CPP problems is discussed as part of a comparative analysis with field examples such as the Dugong case, an illustration of overlap between cultural and natural heritage coined as hybrid heritage. Other cases include events in Libya, Estonia, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Mali. All are weighed against Horst Rittel’s wicked problems theory and other concepts while involving new notions of securitization, politicization, memorialization and propagandization of cultural property. Last but not least, the authors signal within circles of IO’s, NGO’s and Governmental parties involved in the management and protection of heritage, an increase of bureaucratic behavior and political use of mankind’s cultural heritage contributing to the current deplorable situation.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9994932-1-2, 978-0-9994932-2-9, 978-0-9994932-0-5
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Creative Nonfiction, Reference
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Reference
Number of Pages: 134