ICS Seminar Series - Constance Wyndham

Date: Thursday, 2 December 2021
Time: 11.30 a.m.–1.00 p.m.
Venue: The seminar will be hosted online via Zoom. Please RSVP to e.blight@westernsydney.edu.au by 1 December, 5:00 p.m., to receive the Zoom details.

In the shadow of the Buddhas: heritage intervention, national reconstruction and geopolitics in Afghanistan

Presenter: Constance Wyndham

Discussant: Vanicka Arora


This discussion investigates the politics of cultural heritage preservation in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2015. Based on several periods of fieldwork in Afghanistan and combined with observations from working on several internationally sponsored heritage projects in Kabul, I explore some of the new, complex intersections between cultural heritage and politics. I argue that a particular configuration of heritage and politics has emerged after the destructions of the Buddhas at Bamyan and show how the characteristics of this ‘post-Bamyan’ heritage paradigm are revealed through several case studies of internationally sponsored heritage work in Afghanistan. These case studies reveal how politics and heritage are currently configured across a diverse range of governments, state and non-state actors, NGOs, individuals, and forms of expertise, and why such intersections matter. In particular, I will focus on two case studies: the work of the Kabul based Scottish NGO Turquoise Mountain; and a project to restore and conserve the Khwaja Parsa mosque and shrine complex in Balkh by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.


Constance Wyndham has recently completed her PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Her doctoral research looks at the new intersections between cultural heritage preservation and politics in Afghanistan 2008 - 2015. She has practical experience working on a range of different projects in international museum and heritage contexts, particularly Afghanistan where she worked for Turquoise Mountain, an NGO based in Kabul, and on a project with Chicago University’s Oriental Institute to inventory the collection of the National Museum of Afghanistan, in Kabul. She has also taught on the MA in Cultural Heritage Studies programme at University College London. Prior to that she worked at the British Museum, in the Middle East Department, and at Leighton House Museum in London.