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Saving the World? Reflections on UNESCO’s Mid Century Mission in Conflict

Fri, Nov 18    4pm

A lecture by Lynn Meskell, the Richard D. Green Professor of Anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences, Professor in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, and curator in the Middle East and Asia sections at the Penn Museum.

At the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, UNESCO finds itself at an impasse, faced with the impossibility of calling powerful nations to account. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the most recent example. Yet earlier instances of inertia include international conflicts in Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and Crimea. More able to publicly repudiate non-state actors, such as Ansar Dine or Islamic State, than some of its own high-profile member states, UNESCO has increasingly walked a diplomatic tightrope and prioritized geopolitical alliances, financial considerations, and tactical relationships. In response, civil society and heritage NGOs have increasingly emerged to supersede the work of UNESCO, seeking to be independent, nimble and responsive to heritage and humanitarian crises. It is time to reflect on the vast challenges that come with saving the world, and that extends beyond the issues of monumental conservation to the needs of the multiple and highly diverse communities that are exerting greater calls for visibility, participation and power-sharing.

Please register in advance to receive a receive a zoom link.

This lecture will be held in person and is accessible to Columbia University affiliates with a valid green pass.

The lecture is co-organized by the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia GSAPP as part of the Preservation Lecture Series and by Professor Avinoam Shalem, Riggio Professor, Arts of Islam (Department of Art History and Archaeology).