15-Min Flash Talk: The Weaponisation of Cultural Heritage

Political Pasts: Cultural Heritage, Foreign Policy, and Armed Conflict in the Middle East

On 22 September 2014, John Kerry, then US Secretary of State, appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the opening of the exhibition ‘Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age.’  Mere hours after he spoke in front of the Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian wing, the United States initiated a campaign of missile strikes against Islamic State, marking the formal beginning of US military intervention in Syria.

So, Secretary Kerry’s speech did not focus, as one might expect, on the significance of the contents of the exhibit, but rather on the threat supposedly posed by ISIS to cultural heritage. I am less concerned with the veracity of the narratives surrounding ISIS’s cultural heritage destruction than with the reasons why Secretary Kerry would choose a museum as the site to introduce a US military campaign, and with why he would invoke the protection of cultural heritage instead of human lives as the rationale for that intervention.

Speaker Sabrina Illiano posts that there was nothing coincidental about the confluence of these two events, and it was certainly neither the first nor the last time that cultural heritage has been deployed as a discursive weapon in foreign policy.

This talk is presented by Sabrina Illiano, MSc student in Global Governance and Diplomacy. 

The short talk will be followed by a Q&A, a light lunch and socialising in the Hall.

All welcome to this free event.

21 Nov
  • Ms Sabrina Illiano
ODID Special Lectures & Seminars
Queen Elizabeth House, Seminar Room 1, 3 Mansfield Road OX1 3TB