Tourism and cultural heritage are used to build peace

Fri 08 Dec 2017 16:30

How can tourism and heritage support peace-building efforts? Daniel Laven, Associate Professor in Human Geography and senior lecturer at ETOUR, asked himself just that question. Now he has had a chapter published in the recently released book “Heritage and Peacebuilding”.


We begin with another question: Why is the focus almost always on war and conflicts instead of on peace and friendship? It is a difficult question to answer, even for someone who has been conducting research in that field for many years.

– I don’t know. Besides museums usually commemorating war. I think it’s easier for countries and states to promote their national identity through conflict instead of peace. Sometimes a conflict is needed to promote national identity; we see that in many places around the world, says Daniel Laven.


Daniel Laven, ETOUR

With regard to museums in particular, he singles out a couple in Great Britain as examples. The Imperial War Museum in London, which tells the stories of the wars of the 1900s, is not at all controversial compared to a museum in Liverpool that is devoted to slavery.

– Why is it not in the least controversial to depict the war years yet highly controversial to have a museum about slavery?

To Daniel Laven, the simple answer is that states need to talk about and educate society about wars and conflicts. And glorify them.

– Otherwise no one would want to go to war.

At the same time, in Sweden, which in recent years has been spared from conflict, there are plenty of war museums, places commemorating historical military events, museums devoted to women in the armed forces, and military vehicle museums. But a simple Internet search reveals only one museum about peace – Fredens Hus (House of Peace) in Uppsala. It opened in its current version as recently as 2011.

– There is a dirty answer to why we talk so much about wars and conflicts: where there is no war there is no need to talk about peace either. How many peace monuments are there around the world compared to war monuments?

Trying to save cultural heritage

Much of Daniel Laven’s research has concerned the Israel-Palestine conflict and quite soon questions began to arise about how cultural heritage can be used to build peace. His research led to contact with the group behind the (cultural heritage without borders) website, a group that has been working for a long time to among other things prevent cultural heritage buildings in the Balkans being lost in the aftermath of the war there.

When Daniel Laven met some of the members of the group a desire to collaborate arose immediately.

– The group has tried to save important buildings and preserve the values associated with cultural heritage. I had been interested in similar issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict and when I met one of the book’s editors, Diane Walters, she asked me if I would like to write a chapter on it.

Daniel Laven’s chapter deals with how ways can be found to talk about wars and conflicts and use this to build peace rather then further violence. What can we learn from history and how can we use this to create peace?

A hotel with a story to tell

During the course of his studies he has found several concrete examples of how people can work to use cultural heritage to build peace. As an example he mentions the Fauzi Azar Inn hotel in Nazareth, whose owners work to tell the story of the conflicts that have gone on around the building. The hotel is a 200-year-old Arab building where the guests gathered together in a spirit of amicability.

Tourism, says Daniel Laven, is an important industry when it comes to peacebuilding.

– Tourism is one of the top five global industries and it is a good example of crossing borders. Tourism knows no borders, in the same way as water knows no borders. Everyone needs water, everyone needs air. Travelling in its turn creates ways to become involved in new cultures.

Continuing his research

“Heritage and Peacebuilding” was published in October by the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University. Daniel Laven is continuing his research on using culture to build peace. Together with researchers from several other universities he has submitted an application for continued funding for research on the subject. He will soon be returning to Israel and Palestine.

– We continue to find examples of when Israel and Palestine used to work together. We are looking for examples where heritage is used for peace instead of war; it’s quite clear there’s an imbalance there.

He thinks for a moment and adds:

– The world doesn’t need more war monuments. We have to build and enable peace cultures.


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The page was updated 12/18/2017