CULTURAL STABILITY OR CONFLICT: Border-Straddling Heritage in West Asia

Ali Mozaffari's picture
January 30, 2019 to January 31, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Area Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Historic Preservation, Anthropology


West Asia is a volatile region representing an ethnolinguistic and religious imbrication of peoples and their practices throughout history. Many of the nation-states in the region are recent geopolitical designations, either resulting from colonial machinations of warring European powers or the fall of the Soviet Empire in the last century. The arbitrarily drawn borderlines do not account for geographical, cultural, historical, and ethno-religious continuities or fissures in the region. Therefore, various forms of identification and their concomitant tangible and intangible heritages straddle these borders. This border-straddling heritage can conceivably play a dual role. At certain historical junctures — such as moments of national rivalries or regional conflicts — heritage can furnish a substantive alibi for historical or ethnocentric claims and counter-claims, secessionist movements and intrigue. By the same token, at least in theory, heritage can play a more constructive role by facilitating various forms of understanding and dialogue.

In this two-day symposium consists of a public film screening on day 1 followed by an academic workshop on day 2.

Day 1 features the recently produced documentary Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture (Watch Trailer: followed by a panel discussion (Ali Mozaffari, David C. Harvey, and film director Pejman Akbarzadeh) and a question and answer session for the public.

On day 2 we will explore the contradictory functions of heritage across national borders from different theoretical and practical perspectives through academic papers.

We shall consider questions in theory and practice of heritage in such circumstances, including but not limited to:

  • How can we conceptualise the relationship between heritage and historical change in this region? Is it different to other places or regions in the world? 
  • What is the role of heritage in cultural and social stability in the nation-state and in developing understanding across nations in general and in this region in particular?
  • What are the social and historical corollaries of the destruction of the heritage of the “other”?
  • How is heritage (especially the border-straddling kind) invoked in narratives of conflict at various scales?
  • How is this border-straddling heritage constructed in response to conflict?
  • How is this kind of heritage commemorated and does the specific conditions of such heritage result in particular forms of memory, commemoration and performance that may be shared or contested across borders?
  • What are the difficulties of registering, acknowledging, or recording this heritage in such regions, especially in post conflict circumstances or conditions of social and cultural volatility? What are the actual management issues that arise from such heritage?
  • How does heritage engage with or interact with religion and what are the cross-border corollaries of such interaction?

 For full details of the program visit


Contact Info: 

Ali Mozaffari

Fellow of the Australian Research Council

Deakin University