Cultural continuity and the political trajectories of states are intimately intertwined. What happens to state institutions, how they are transformed through the interventions of external and domestic actors, affects heritage and its continuity in myriad ways. This paper looks at heritage in relation to the state and sites of power through the prism of cultural continuity, which can offer a more nuanced and historical perspective of the field of heritage in situations of change, transformation and conflict. It examines the repercussions of Iraq’s political system based on political quotas installed under the occupation of Iraq, where state institutions, including those of heritage, are allocated as electoral windfalls to competing political groups. The ensuing institutional disorder, absence of centralised rule and multiplicity of overlapping power structures in the country have detrimentally affected the conditions of Iraq’s heritage. International heritage interventions too have been largely ineffective in the face of the catastrophic damage inflicted on the sector since 2003. I argue that the fragmentation of state institutions and on the other hand a weak international heritage infrastructure, concerned mainly with its own priorities, has left Iraq’s heritage in a perpetual state of crisis that has not been addressed in any meaningful way.
Academic article published in the International Journal of Heritage Studies, June 2019.