This thesis studies the destruction and preservation of cultural heritage during warfare through the examination of various media of cultural heritage. Building upon the work of other scholars and thinkers, the objectives are: a) the epistemology of global cultural heritage governance and the formation of global preservation networks; b) the interpretation of technologies and media; and c) a meditation on the relationship between physically-built cultural heritage and digital, or virtual, representation.
The Syrian Civil War is the case I have been researching. Syria has a diverse cultural heritage dating back to the Millennium. And various cultures coexisted and overlapped with it throughout history. The Syrian Civil War has led to a massive devastation of human lives and archaeological monuments, historic urban fabric, antiques and manuscripts. Six listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites all suffered various degrees of damage. During the Syrian Civil War, in comparison to the exceptionally few on-the-ground protection actions, primary efforts have been put on the broadcasting and documentation of cultural heritage destruction through social media, remote sensing, and digital representation. None of these technologies are new. However, their joint deployment within the context of armed conflict and in the name of “preservation” is unprecedented. This phenomenon provides a preview of the global preservation organization network and its interaction with other actors such as governments, military sectors, news media, and the science community. I pay special attention not only to the physical cultural heritage but its media including photos, physical copies, virtual monuments, screens, and satellite images.
In the first chapter, I trace the history of the Syrian Civil War from 2011 to 2016, and investigate the destruction of cultural heritage and on-the-ground preservation activities. In the second chapter, I describe how satellite images are made, disseminated and used by various institutions. I try to decipher the code that satellite imagery transmits about the satellite complex. At the end, I explain the connection between satellite and global preservation discourse and global heritage network. In Chapter Three, I explore the relationship between original cultural heritage and its copies. In Chapter Four, I collect the cases of virtual modeling and reconstruction endeavours and contemplate a way of thinking about them.