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Politics of Heritage in the Middle East Conference

Friday, February 17, 2012
12:00 AM
Rackham Graduate School, Assembly Hall (4th Floor), 915 E. Washington

The Middle East today looks back at a heritage of multiple layered pasts, some of them as conspicuous as the Pyramids, others hidden in the ground like the works of the Hittites, some ephemeral like the lifestyle of the dwindling nomadic population of Turkey, some apparently permanently engraved like the rituals of churches and mosques. Since the colonial period, social and cultural change has been accelerated in an unprecedented way, and has thus added new layers to the past, and new forms of envisioning and reconstructing it.
CMENAS is planning a one-day symposium to pose questions how this complex heritage is cherished and neglected, forgotten and reinvented, reconstructed and transformed, exhibited and destroyed, highlighted and obscured, reified, poeticized, commodified. How do citizens, states, and other institutions in the Middle East today view those multiple pasts? How are continuities and discontinuities constructed in cultural production and national narratives? Which layers are privileged, which are suppressed? How are those pasts appropriated and re-presented in the visual landscape, preserved in the museum, and taught in schools? How does popular culture draw on this heritage to forge modern identities? Whose agenda, whose epistemology drives the process? Despite its origins being entirely detached from the contemporary Middle East, the many academic disciplines that contribute to Middle Eastern Studies in the West have been part of this process of creating heritages in various ways. So we will also have to ask when and how Middle Eastern and Western endeavors to reconstruct these heritages have been colluding to create new narratives, or how and when they have competed for the possession of monuments, and for their hegemonic interpretation. How are research agendas, funding priorities, excavation permits, and claims to findings, old and new, negotiated? Are Middle Easternists analyzing the narratives of heritages, or just creating new ones? Are the universalist claims of Western academia more than an excuse to interfere in the politics of others’ heritages? Whose past is it, anyway? Thursday, February 16th from 6:30-7:30 PM, Hussey Room, The Michigan League Keynote Address: "Musings on Museums as Stewards of the Messo'potamia" Margaret Root, Curator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; Professor, Department of the History of Art; Core Faculty, Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology. Friday, February 17th, Assembly Hall, Rackham Graduate School Panel 1: Nation & Heritage (9:00 - 10:30 AM) Kader Konuk, U-M, "The Heritage of European Humanism in 1930s Turkey" Magnus Bernhardsson, Williams College, "What is Iraq? Nationalizing Iraqi Heritage" Chair: Geoff Emberling, University of Michigan Panel 2: Heritage & Popular Culture (10:45-12:15) Andrew Shryock, U-M, "Taming Tribal Heritage in Jordan: What Happens When Oral History and Hospitality Become National Treasures?" Walter Armbrust, Oxford University, "Echoes of the Martyrological Heritage in Egypt's January 25th Revolution" Flagg Miller, University of California-Davis Chair: Kader Konuk, University of Michigan Panel 3: Displaying Heritage (1:30 - 3:00 PM) Ann Killebrew, Penn State, "Who Owns the Past? Archaeology, Heritage and Politics in Israel" Helaine Silverman, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, "Contested Heritage from a Global and Comparative Perspective" Asli Gür, U-M, "Political Struggles over the Public Representations of Anatolian Archaeology" Chair: Margaret Root, University of Michigan