Allison Cuneo

Rebuilding Architectural Heritage in Post-Conflict Mosul: Current Challenges, Considerations, and Case Studies

In Iraq artifacts and monuments historically have been valued national resource, but conflict has upended current heritage management policies and challenged the traditional definition of national culture. Following past wars, the growing market for antiquities and the catastrophic destruction were considered the primary threats to Iraqi heritage, whereas more mundane and perpetual threats like economic development and decay were underfunded and overlooked. The consequence of these narrow heritage priorities has resulted in lowered preservation standards that favor reactive solutions over long-term preventative strategies while privileging foreign interventionist strategies over local capacity building.

Iraq once again finds itself in a state of recovery, and both domestic and foreign powers are eager to rebuild after this most recent iteration of conflict while avoiding previous heritage management missteps. The defeat of the ISIS marks a significant victory that has transformed Baghdad’s relationship with its neighbors, foreign powers, and its own citizens. The places fast-tracked for rehabilitation in this post-conflict period will become highly visible national symbols, which will have significant ramifications for Iraq’s nationalized cultural identity locally while setting the tone for international heritage management practice. 

Drawing on recent fieldwork in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, this talk will explore the modalities of state-sponsored preservation initiatives. It will outline the various cultural preservation projects active Mosul and the surrounding area to identify the constraints on protecting architectural heritage during post-conflict reconstruction and examine the sociopolitical implications of repairing cultural sites impacted by armed conflict.

For more information and additional lectures and events, visit akpia.mit.edu.

Allison Cuneo

Aga Khan Program

Allison Cuneo is an archaeologist specializing in critical heritage studies. Her current fieldwork centers on northern Iraq and her research concerns cultural heritage destruction, international heritage management policy and practice, and community-based participatory research. She has conducted archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork in Greece, England, and Spain, and has been a manager for capacity building and monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding programs, including the University Linkage Program at Mosul University and the Cultural Heritage Initiatives at ASOR. Currently she is a post-doctoral fellow in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT and a co-principal investigator with the Mosul Heritage Stabilization Program (MHSP), a multi-year U.S. Department of State Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation cooperative agreement with her independent consulting firm, Cultural Property Consultants, and the University of Pennsylvania Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC).