CFP: Contested Pasts: Urban Heritage in Divided Cities

Association of Critical Heritage Studies Third Biennial Conference, Conference Theme: What Does Heritage Change? Montreal, Canada, 6-10 June 2016

CFP (Session OS064): Contested Pasts: Urban Heritage in Divided Cities

Convenors: Mirjana Ristic, University of Melbourne, and Sybille Frank, Technische Universität Berlin

Submission deadline: November 1st 2015

We invite you to submit abstracts for the panel session “Contested Pasts: Urban Heritage in Divided Cities”. This session seeks to explore the role of urban heritage in mediating and contesting political conflict in the context of divided cities. We take urban heritage in a broad sense to include places left, scarred or transformed by geo-political dispute, national and ethnic division, violence and war. The case studies can include tangible spaces such as elements of border architecture, historic sites, ruins and urban traces of the conflict, and memorials; as well as intangible elements of city including urban voids, everyday rituals, place names and other forms of spatial discourse. These can be both designated and undesignated urban heritage sites. We seek for empirical and theoretic papers that will cover one of the following themes:

  1. Heritage at War

Recent political events show that urban heritage in divided cities plays a role in the war not merely as the site of violence and terror, but the very tool through which they are mediated. The Old Bridge in Mostar was bombed out in 1993, the Nablus old town was bulldozed and demolished by tank fire in 2002, while Syrian ancient sites are still being pulverised by ISIS. We ask: why is urban heritage so often rendered a target of the war? What is the political role of its destruction? How can urban heritage be used as a tool for political resistance?

  1. Divided Heritage

Urban heritage is often re-designed, re-invented and employed as an instrument of political division in the cityscape. Discrete religious heritage dominates the Greek and Turkish sides of Nicosia, urban parades invested with separate sectarian traditions are held in Belfast, streets in Sarajevo and East Sarajevo acquired different commemorative names after the war. We ask: what role do spatial remnants, practices and discourses of the past play in the demarcation of urban territories? What happens when heritage of one social group becomes “displaced” on the side of the other? How does urban heritage mediate and contest socio-spatial marginalization, discrimination and exclusion?

  1. Dealing with Contested Heritage

The political division of the city itself often leaves contested urban heritage in the cityscape. The legacy of ethnic clashes is still visible in the cityscape of Beirut, while traces and memories of the Berlin Wall still haunt the city. We ask: what should be done with remnants of the city’s division in the post-conflict scenario? What influence do preservation and commemoration of these places have on transformation of the city’s spatial morphology, flows of urban life and place identity? In what ways can transformation of such heritage contribute to reunification and reconciliation?

  1. The Everyday Life of Urban Heritage in Divided Cities

Common research on urban heritage often focuses on representational capacities and the symbolic role of heritage sites. We ask: how are the official discourses of history and memory embedded in these sites accepted, contested and/or transformed through their use? In which ways are new popular and unintended meanings inscribed in these sites through spatial practices around them?

Submission details for Session OS064 “Contested Pasts: Urban Heritage in Divided Cities” (part of the broader theme “Uses of Heritage and Conflicts I: Political Uses (Heritage Changes Politics)”):

All interested speakers are invited to submit a paper proposal by completing the electronic form at

All paper proposals should be submitted via with a brief resume (biographical notice and main publications or achievements) of no more than 300 words and an abstract of no more than 600 words presenting the topic or main argument and its relation to the theme of the session. Paper abstracts should also demonstrate scientific quality through references to a theoretical framework, a methodology or by outlining the contribution to knowledge.

Submissions can be made either in English or French. All proposals will be peer-reviewed through a process managed by Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2016 scientific committee.

You are welcome to contact the panel organizers, Mirjana Ristic ( or Sybille Frank (, if you have any questions regarding the panel session or your submission.

Mirjana Ristic & Sybille Frank


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