Contemporary conflict, natioalism and the destruction of cultural property during armed conflict
Faculty of Applied Economics
Journal of conflict archaeology
, p. 49-65
University of Antwerp
During armed conflict, cultural property can be intentionally destroyed or looted. Despite the development of many preventive measures in recent decades, this phenomenon has not observably decreased. The literature on cultural property destruction during armed conflict fails to interpret this trend within a broader theoretical framework. Therefore, this article links the empirical knowledge on destruction of cultural property to contemporary theories of war and nationalism. This is achieved through an analysis of documents and literature. Our main conclusion is that the identity-bound character of (or role of nationalism in) contemporary wars is linked to an increased incidence of cultural property destruction. Moreover, factors such as illicit war economies, the prevalence of contemporary wars in weak or failed states, and the multiplicity of actors engaged, contribute to the incidence of intentional cultural property destruction and looting. These insights can contribute to an improved understanding of the phenomenon and, consequently, to an enhanced cultural property destruction prevention strategy.