ISIS and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria

03 Oct 2021


On February 26th, 2015, ISIS posted a (now iconic) video on YouTube, showing the deliberate destruction of ancient sculpture in the Mosul Museum and at the archaeological site of Nineveh in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many users of social media had a visceral reaction to the video and quickly shared it both to inform others of ISIS’s barbaric acts and to declare their own cosmopolitan, humanitarian, civilized condemnation of these uncivilized acts against antiquities. This paper will discuss the Islamic State’s destruction of archaeological sites and museum antiquities from the perspective of political ecology and new materialism. Enacted as part of their scorched earth policy and place-based violence that aim to annihilate the local sense of belonging among local communities, Islamic State’s destructions are choreographed as mediatic spectacles of violence aimed at objects and sites of heritage. These take the form of re-enactments of historical instances of idol breaking that are communicated to us through ISIS’s own powerful image-making apparatus, utilizing global technologies of visualization and communication.

Event Date: 
Sunday, October 3, 2021 - 2:00pm
Sponsored By: 
Archaeological Institute of America