Iraqi heritage restoration, grassroot interventions and post-conflict recovery: reflections from Mosul

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The deliberate targeting and violent destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq’s ancient city of Mosul by the Islamic State (2014-17) has recently given way to the emergence of heritage initiatives aimed at restoring its urban character and reviving its cosmopolitan spirit. Such restoration projects invariably stir debates over timing, funding, local consultation, as well as their potential to contribute to post-war social cohesion and communal healing. This article argues that in post-conflict settings heritage restoration is always an ambivalent and contingent process, involving the selective use of emotive symbols by multiple actors to create new realities from past memories. Based on over 50 in depth interviews with a diverse section of Moslawi society and drawing on site observations from Mosul (2022-23), the article explores local perspectives and the ongoing dynamic negotiation of heritage restoration. Drawing on often-conflicting communal perceptions of large-scale internationally funded reconstruction projects, the article highlights the challenge of producing a unified and meaningful historical narrative. Additionally, the authors present some new reflections on less examined but locally championed Moslawi heritage sites – the souks, Qila’yat district and heritage homes. These civic spaces may offer greater opportunity for social recovery through economic development, cultural exchange and everyday co-existence.
Original languageEnglish
Journaljournal of social archaeology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2023


  • Iraq
  • Mosul, peacebuilding, urbicide, memory, reconstruction, Iraq
  • heritage
  • reconstruction
  • Postconflict reintegration


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