Socially Mediated Terrorism and Conflicting Heritage Values

Author(s): Claire Smith

Year: 2016


The confluence of contemporary terrorism and radical changes in the media landscape constitutes a fresh—and currently under-rated—threat to cultural heritage. Socially mediated terrorism in Syria and Iraq is underpinned by a clash in heritage values. As visual symbols of competing political, ideological and religious values, iconic cultural heritage is an increasingly likely choice for extremists seeking visual ways to maximise their impact. Not everyone ascribes to the notion of Outstanding Universal Value and the symbolic dimension of World Heritage sites can make these sites potent targets for terrorists seeking to obtain global attention for a political cause. What is new is the opportunity that the media revolution provides for the increased impact of destruction, both locally and globally.

Moreover, the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, both within countries and between countries, exacerbates feelings of estrangement that can be used by terrorists to retard the protection of World Heritage sites. The destruction of cultural heritage will remain a problem as long as cultural patrimony—and indeed World Heritage—is shaped primarily by Anglo-European concepts of heritage, and consequently aligned with viewpoints and values that are associated with the West.

Cite this Record

Socially Mediated Terrorism and Conflicting Heritage Values. Claire Smith. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404354)