Architectures of Colonialism Constructed Histories, Conflicting Memories

International Online Conference, 16 to 19 June 2021 BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg

18 June 2021 17:30 Whose Heritage?

Whose Heritage? The Persisting Ambiguities of the Heritagization of Colonial Architecture in the Middle East and North Africa

Nora Lafi (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin)

Historiography has, in the last couple of decades, tackled in a critical and complex way the question of the inclusion of colonial artefacts and sites in processes of heritage recognition and protection. Such reflections, in the wake of collective research endeavours aiming at discussing the colonial history of heritage as a notion, a practice and an institutionalization process in general, have illustrated the difficult relationship between heritage conservation policies and conflicting memories in the case of situations involving a post-colonial dimension. In cities of North Africa and the Middle East, intense debates have emerged on heritagization choices and strategies. They often involve reflections on the category of heritage itself, on identity and on memory. The object of this paper is to examine such debates and situations to offer a deciphering of the complexity of what is at stake and a critical reading of ideological, political and social ambiguities. Discussing examples in formerly Ottoman cities colonized by France in the 19th and 20th centuries, the paper will analyse various phases and types of heritagization and/or rejection, in order to reflect on the entanglement of memories, but also on how colonial heritage considerations invite revised approaches to heritage in general.

Nora Lafi is a historian (PhD, 1999; Habilitation, 2011) who specializes in the study of the Ottoman empire and of the societies of the Middle East and North Africa. She works as a Senior Research Fellow at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. She chairs the international and collaborative research project HISDEMAB of the Leibniz-Association on the theme of the historicity of democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds. She is also Privatdozentin at the Freie Universität of Berlin (Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies). In 2020, she was Senior Fellow at the Max Weber Centre at Erfurt University (Religion and Urbanity Research Group). She co-chairs with U. Freitag the “Cities Compared: Governance, Consultative Mechanisms and Plurality” project within the EUME programme (Forum Transregionale Studien). Among her publications: Esprit civique et organisation citadine dans l’empire ottoman (Brill, 2019); Urban Governance Under the Ottomans: Between Cosmopolitanism and Conflict (ed. with U. Freitag; Routledge, 2014); Une ville du Maghreb entre ancien régime et réformes ottomans (L’Harmattan, 2002).