Annual Heritage Lecture: Saving the World? Reflections on UNESCO’s Mid-century Mission in Conflict

De Transfiguratiekathedraal, een UNESCO werelderfgoed als onderdeel van het historische centrum van Odesa, raakte beschadigd bij een Russische aanval in 2023. Foto: Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine (CC BY 4.0)
The Transfiguration Cathedral, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the historic city centre of Odesa, was damaged by a Russian missile attack in 2023. Photo: Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine (CC BY 4.0)

Professor of Anthropology Lynn Meskell (University of Pennsylvania) will give this year’s Annual Heritage Lecture. In ‘Saving the World? Reflections on UNESCO’s Mid-century Mission in Conflict’ she will reflect on the challenges UNESCO faces. Afterwards, the Dr Albert van der Zeijden Thesis Award 2024 will be awarded.

UNESCO’s challenges

At the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, UNESCO finds itself at an impasse, faced with the impossibility of calling powerful nations to account. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the most recent example. Yet earlier instances of inertia include international conflicts in Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, and Ukraine.

More able to publicly repudiate non-state actors, such as Ansar Dine or Islamic State, than some of its own high-profile member states, UNESCO has increasingly walked a diplomatic tightrope and prioritised geopolitical alliances, financial considerations, and tactical relationships. In response, civil society and heritage NGOs have increasingly emerged to supersede the work of UNESCO, seeking to be independent, nimble, and responsive to heritage and humanitarian crises.

It is time to reflect on the vast challenges that come with saving the world, and that extends beyond the issues of monumental conservation to the needs of the multiple and highly diverse communities that are exerting greater calls for visibility, participation, and power-sharing. 

Dr Albert van der Zeijden Thesis Award 2024

The prize is awarded by the Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (KIEN) and Utrecht University to a student who wrote an excellent thesis with intangible cultural heritage as the main theme. During the ceremony the three nominated students present their thesis. The nominees are:

  • Gabriel Harmsen (Utrecht University): ‘Traditional Folk Music in a Polarizing Europe: An Expedient to Cultural Sovereignty?’
  • Valentine Goossens (Antwerp University): ‘De Leonardo Cisneiros-occupatie in Recife, de bewoners en hun woonculturen’
  • Andreas Simons (Leuven University): ‘Preserving Language Diversity through AI: A Study on Limburgish’

Afterwards, we will celebrate the nominees and winner with a drinks reception at Café Lodewijk (Drift 27).

Start date and time
End date and time
Drift 21, 1.05

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