A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (Paperback)
  • A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (Paperback)
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A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (Paperback)

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Paperback 400 Pages / Published: 01/03/2020
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Best known for its World Heritage program committed to "the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity," the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded in 1945 as an intergovernmental agency aimed at fostering peace, humanitarianism, and intercultural understanding. Its mission was inspired by leading European intellectuals such as Henri Bergson, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, H. G. Wells, and Aldous and Julian Huxley. Often critiqued for its inherent Eurocentrism, UNESCO and its World Heritage program today remain embedded within modernist principles of "progress" and "development" and subscribe to the liberal principles of diplomacy and mutual tolerance. However, its mission to prevent conflict, destruction, and intolerance, while noble and much needed, increasingly falls short, as recent battles over the World Heritage sites of Preah Vihear, Chersonesos, Jerusalem, Palmyra, Aleppo, and Sana'a, among others, have underlined. A Future in Ruins is the story of UNESCO's efforts to save the world's heritage and, in doing so, forge an international community dedicated to peaceful co-existence and conservation. It traces how archaeology and internationalism were united in Western initiatives after the political upheavals of the First and Second World Wars. This formed the backdrop for the emergent hopes of a better world that were to captivate the "minds of men." UNESCO's leaders were also confronted with challenges and conflicts about their own mission. Would the organization aspire to intellectual pursuits that contributed to the dream of peace or instead be relegated to an advisory and technical agency? An eye-opening and long overdue account of a celebrated yet poorly understood agency, A Future in Ruins calls on us all to understand how and why the past comes to matter in the present, who shapes it, and who wins or loses as a consequence.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780197503188
Number of pages: 400
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
A timely and important work that combines anthropology, politics, and archaeology to consider the history and legacy of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).... The author's honest, thought-provoking treatment brings into question the abilities and benefits of UNESCO while highlighting some of the complex political and historical actions that have brought about the precarious role it now plays.... Highly recommended. * CHOICE *
A Future in Ruins transcends the boundaries of history, archaeology, politics and anthropology an enlightening and enjoyable book to read. * Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem, Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review *
This is a highly original and timely reassessment of UNESCO's checkered global mission since the late 1940s. While Meskell's book is ostensibly about UNESCO, world heritage, and the changing practices of archaeology, it is also a powerful rereading of international history and the broader politics of preservation in today's world. For those interested in the history of internationalism, contemporary global politics, and heritage studies, this is a must read. * Paul Betts, University of Oxford *
A Future in Ruins represents the first in-depth analysis of UNESCO from its heady beginnings in a postwar world to the very different political and cultural attitudes to heritage in the present. Meskell brings her considerable analytical skills to bear on the personalities and structures of the organization and the material remains on which they focused. This is a book for anyone concerned with the past and present of global heritage. * Chris Gosden, University of Oxford *
This timely book's insight and subtlety will set the diplomatic world by its ears. Meskell shows how UNESCO's pious pose of cultural universalism masks nationalistic-and Eurocentric * pursuits. Her argument steadily moves us toward the unexpected revelation that UNESCO's interventions, understood by the world's disenfranchised as redolent of Western arrogance, increase the threat to the cultural treasures they are supposed to protect. *
Meskell has written a timely and important work that combines anthropology, politics, and archaeology to consider the history and legacy of UNESCO...The author's honest, thought-provoking treatment brings into question the abilities and benefits of UNESCO while highlighting some of the complex political and historical actions that have brought about the precarious role it now plays."- Choice
Making an argument for urgently needed reform, Meskell presents numerous case studies and an analysis of UNESCO'S legal framework, which is vulnerable to manipulation by corrupt actors."- The New Yorker, Briefly Noted Section
In A Future in Ruins, archaeologist Lynn Meskell offers an institutional ethnography of UNESCO. The organization's broad remit ranges from publishing to promoting women in science, but Meskell focuses exclusively on its role in protecting world heritage and archaeology, particularly through the 1972 World Heritage Convention. Inevitably, this role has been highly political. UNESCO's mission was to end global conflict and help the world rebuild materially and morally, Meskell observes. Yet increasingly, she argues, its efforts are caught up in the proliferation and prolongation of local conflicts and tensions...Meskell offers a trenchant critique of how UNESCO's aim of preventing war sits oddly with projects commemorating sites associated with violence [while noting] notes that international recognition enshrines only one version of history."- Nature

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