Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Davis. She specializes in the visual cultures of the Middle East, including architectural preservation, museums, and cultural heritage. Her book, The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (2004) received the Kostof Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her fellowships include the Getty Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright-Hays, Social Science Research Council, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and the President of the University of California. Her book, The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript, from Genocide to Justice is forthcoming from Stanford University Press.
The destruction of art, especially religious art, constitutes an element of genocide. Claims for the restitution of surviving religious and artistic objects often feature in post-conflict processes of survival or reconciliation. The lecture follows specific art objects that have survived genocide, civil conflict, or exile, and that have become the focus for restitution claims. Such objects embody the defining elements of art history in the 21st century: the materiality of the object, the contest between communities and powerful institutions for control over cultural patrimony, the human right to culture, the impact of the global art market, and the ways in which objects mediate identities.