Preserving cultural heritage: Shifting paradigms in the face of war, occupation, and identity

Sahera Bleibleh, Jihad Awad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


War is often an amalgamation of various objectives and occupation a realization of one core aim, that is, the suppression of the identity of an occupied population. Thus, warfare not only affects people but also the collective narrative of their environments, history, culture, and identity. Consequently, deliberate destruction of cultural heritage becomes part of any political struggle. Once political struggles infringe on a nation's history, both local and global institutions and entities must take responsibility for preserving the authenticity of the global narrative. Deprioritizing urban conservation policies, especially during times of war, is known to inflict sheer, and sometimes irreversible, damage on a national and global scale. Despite the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) regulations on protecting cultural heritage during war, the enforcement of such responsibilities on the ground remains questionable. The Palestinian experience is among the rare existing narratives of cultural heritage and architectural conservation becoming the crux of resistance against loss of land and identity. Lacking a central authority and having only been operational for the last three decades, the conservation movement has nonetheless succeeded in conserving a considerable part of Palestinian architectural heritage. The quality of work produced by these efforts has received international recognition and various accolades, despite ongoing difficulties faced under occupation. This paper highlights the role of non-governmental organizations in Palestine, particularly of Riwaq, and details their internationally recognized conservation efforts in several locations, such as Jerusalem and Hebron. These examples are presented to foster the argument that architecture is intrinsic to preserving historical authenticity and local identity. A dependable future rests on preserving the cultural heritage of all places, requiring universal compliance among nations that transcends physical borders and boundaries to promote the continuity of shared legacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-203
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Conservation policies
  • Cultural heritage
  • Identity
  • Palestine
  • Resistance
  • Riwaq and NGOs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • General Economics,Econometrics and Finance
  • Archaeology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Conservation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)


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