Heritage in Times of Conflict: film and panel talk

Internal Event – University of Reading staff and students only

We cordially invite you to the H&C Academic Forum for the Summer Term 2018 which will focus on the theme of Heritage in Times of Conflict.

As part of the event, we are holding a film viewing of ‘The Destruction of Memory’, followed by a panel discussion that will consider challenges around the preservation and protection of cultural heritage in today’s world. This important event will be of major interest for researchers whose work touches on heritage and conflict, and it will provide colleagues with an opportunity to ask questions and network more widely.

The ‘Destruction of Memory’ film is based on the book of the same name by Robert Bevans. The film includes interviews with the Director-General of UNESCO, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as many international experts, including archaeologists. The film’s website is here http://destructionofmemoryfilm.com/

The film covers the following topics:

  • The devastating effects that ‘A war on culture’ has on today’s society and the challenges it causes in preserving and protecting history
  • Destructive behaviour of Daesh (ISIS) and how their actions attempt to obliterate culture and memory
  • Measures currently being pursued to protect, salvage and rebuild the history that has been lost as a result of cultural destruction.

The panel will be chaired by Professor Roger Matthews, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, University of Reading and President of RASHID International (Research, Assessment, Safeguarding the Heritage of Iraq in Danger) and will represent a variety of expertise from across the University and beyond. These include:

  • Tim Slade – Writer, Director and Producer of the film ‘The Destruction of Memory’ for Vast Productions, USA
  • Dr Lisa Purse – Head of Department and Associate Professor in Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading
  • Professor Rosa Freedman – Professor of Law Conflict and Global Development, University of Reading
  • Dr Dina Rezk – Lecturer in Middle Eastern History (19th / 20th Century), University of Reading.

Please register with Chris Anderson in the Research Deans’ Office by e-mail on researchdeansoffice@reading.ac.uk. As catering will be booked for this event, please confirm whether you have any dietary requirements.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Professor Roger Matthews (Archaeology) and Professor Roberta Gilchrist (R Dean H&C)

The invisibility of language intermediaries

Professor Hilary Footitt, from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, has a major interest in ‘Languages and international NGOs’ (non-governmental organisations) and how research into languages and cultures can support the work of NGOs and aid agencies as they operate ‘on the ground’ in international conflict and crisis zones. It focuses on the language and cultural challenges faced by international NGOs, and the role and status of the local personnel they increasingly employ.

The occlusion of non-military linguists, their apparent absence from policymaking for conflict, is in many ways related to a much more fundamental problem, a classic tendency to ignore the presence of language intermediaries altogether, to deny personal subjectivity to those ‘middle’ men and women who stand between institutions and foreign populations. Two discourses, one from those who employ interpreters, and one from the profession of interpreting itself, arguably contribute to the continued invisibility of the linguist.

For institutions in conflict situations, interpreting and translating are often seen through the lens of logistics. In this perspective, language intermediaries are one element in the overall matériel of war, as interpreters in Bosnia/Herzegovina explained: “That was our favourite briefing for soldiers when they were going on a patrol. Don’t forget your kit. Helmets, body armour. Don’t forget your satellite box, the orange box of the satellite phone. Don’t forget your interpreter…as if I am a tool”; “ …the Americans used to call the interpreters ‘lips’. ‘ Hey, lips’, you know, and the lips would come over and do the interpreting and they were supposed to be invisible.” (Baker b, 2012, 208). Paradoxically, this tendency to deny personal visibility to the interpreter can be reinforced by the traditional discourse of professional interpreting, developed and codified after the Second World War, in which the primary ethical requirement is for the interpreter to be impartial at all times.

Both the notion of the language intermediary as a part of operational logistics, and the neutrality concept of professional interpreting contribute in their different ways to the invisibility of language mediation in accounts of conflict.