Heritage for Citizenship in Times of Conflict

Lecture & Debate - 

The Syrian professor Arm al-Azm has been called a modern-day Indiana Jones for his work combating the illegal art trade instigated by ISIS. At this event he explores together with Egyptian architect and conservator May al-Ibrashy and professor and diplomat Cynthia P. Schneider how cultural heritage can be used as a weapon for peace.

It is widely publicized that violent conflicts and war in the Middle-East and North-Africa goes hand in hand with the destruction of ancient monuments. News items on the destructions in Palmyra and Timbuktu, or the plundering of the Mallawi National Museum in Cairo shocks the world. That cultural heritage initiatives can also play a positive role in post-conflict situations is less known. However, in polarized societies, where governments is mistrusted or even disputed, it is a very precarious undertaken. How can heritage be used to foster peace, national consciousness and social cohesion? What are best practices to learn from?

About the speakers

  • Amr al-Azm was the Director of Scientific and Conservation Laboratories at the General Department of Antiquities and Museums (1999-2004) and taught at the University of Damascus until 2006. From 2006-2009 he became a visiting Professor at Brigham Young University. Currently he is an Associate Professor of Middle East History and Anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio. Whilst working in Syria Amr Al-Azm was a first hand observer and sometime participant of the reform processes instigated by Bashar Al-Assad thus gaining insights into how they were enacted and why more often than not they failed. Furthermore he is an outspoken member of the Syrian opposition and a keen follower and commentator on current events in Syria and the Middle East in general.
  • May al-Ibrashy is a conservation architect and architectural historian, She is founder and chair of the Built Environment Collective, an Egyptian NGO and director of Megawra, its commercial arm. She is coordinator of Athar Lina, a participatory initiative integrating conservation and community development based in Historic Cairo. She is also adjunct lecturer of architecture at the American University in Cairo.
  • Cynthia P. Schneider is a distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, teaches, publishes, and organizes initiatives in the field of cultural diplomacy, with a focus on relations with the Muslim world. Ambassador Schneider co-directs the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown, as well as the Los Angeles-based MOST Resource (Muslims on Screen and Television). Additionally, she co-directs the Timbuktu Renaissance, an innovative strategy and platform for countering extremism and promoting peace and development through a focus on culture. She is currently writing a book on the role of culture in foreign policy and international relations, entitled Culture on the Front Lines: 21st Century Diplomacy. From 1998-2001 she served as U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands. 

About this program

This is event is part of the serie ‘Exchanges on the Middle East’, and the result of a collaboration between the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS), and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs North Africa and Middle East Department.

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