Conflict Art: Scholars Develop the Tactical Value of Cultural Patrimony
Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 299-323, 2010
Posted: 5 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2010
Historically, empires recruited scholars to capture artworks as a complement to military victory. Over the past century, cultural scholars have integrated fine art and antiquities into campaigns of conquest and assessed the political ramifications of damage to historic sites and religious monuments in military intervention. Consequently, historians, archaeologists, and legal scholars have advanced the role of cultural patrimony in international conflict from a rite of conquest to a means of combat. In World War II, art historians in the Nazi regime planned plunder of artworks and destruction of historic structures as a tactic for conquest. During the Cold War, archaeological discoveries in developing nations enabled looting of cultural artifacts, and subsequent legal studies on the transfer of cultural property developed the value of cultural patrimony in the covert battle for control of the Third World. In the post-Cold War as transnational organized crime and terrorism exploit antiquities trafficking and target cultural sites in acts of political violence, scholars in international relations consider culture in security theories. Across the three periods of international conflict, cultural scholars have actively developed the tactical value of cultural patrimony and played a role in transforming the perception of plunder in the context of military victory.
Keywords: cultural property, foreign policy, armed conflict, ethnic cleansing, plunder, looting, trafficking, politial violence
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