Internationally acclaimed UN expert delivers special extension lecture at JU

Jammu (PR): Ms Aparna Tandon, an internationally acclaimed conservator who works for United Nation’s ICCROM based in Rome, Italy, delivered a special extension lecture on “Cultural heritage, social disruptions and development” at  University of Jammu. The special extension lecture was organised jointly by the Departments of Lifelong Learning (DLL), Sociology and Psychology in collaboration with the Department of Students Welfare, University of Jammu.
Ms Tandon who has studied at Harvard University, is a Fulbright and Inlaks scholar who is leading ICCROM’s international capacity development programme on disaster risk management and its flagship training on First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis. Ms. Tandon has also worked extensively in regions like Syria, Iraq, Nepal, Philippines,Iraq, Mosul, Haiti, Sudan etc.
Dr. Anupama Vohra, Associate Dean, DSW, Dr. Kavita Suri,Director and Head, DLL, Dr Hema Gandotra, Officiating head, Sociology were also present at the occasion besides the students of Rural development, Sociology and Psychology.
In her interactive lecture, Ms Tandon explained the complex interaction between cultural heritage, social disruptions that occur due to conflicts and disasters, and sustainable development.
Based on her extensive experience in recovering damaged cultural heritage amidst large scale disasters and intense conflicts, the UN expert who has spent past 20 years in the field, explained how safeguarding cultural heritage which is connected with people’s lives can help societies to recover, build social cohesion as well as resilience.
Illustrating examples from Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Philippines, Nepal and Jammu and Kashmir, the speaker highlighted that cultural heritage can be negatively used in the social upheavals caused by conflicts and disasters to divide communities or create inequalities.
“The deliberate destruction of religious shrines in various parts of the world or the very act of selecting a kind of cultural heritage for restoration in the aftermath of a disaster could be used as a weapon of identity politics to divide people when they are most vulnerable, and are coming out of a crisis,” said Ms Tandon quoting examples from Mali, Haiti, Jammu & Kashmir (India), and Iraq, where local communities had come forward to protect their own heritage during social disruptions caused by conflicts and disasters. She explained how for many of them cultural heritage provided a sense of identity and a thread of continuity.
Emphasizing that universities have a crucial role to play by undertaking interdisciplinary research on developing an inclusive discourse on identification and management of a nation’s cultural heritage, she said this can reduce social inequalities and identity based conflicts which can in turn help build resilience for cyclic conflicts and disasters.
The lecture concluded with a short discussion with the students of the three departments which can help them to further research on  various cultures and sub-cultures of J&K, and help to reduce polarization in the state. The students came up with several issues during the short interaction. They highlighted the lack of available research material in various languages of the state, and how knowledge about local cultural heritage is not included in the school and undergraduate curricula.
The programme was conducted by Ms Sonakshi Ganotra while Ms Diksha Andotra presented vote of thanks.

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