A revealing investigation of the complexities of UNESCO’s mission.

A FUTURE IN RUINS

UNESCO, WORLD HERITAGE, AND THE DREAM OF PEACE

Dissension and controversy have plagued the identification and care of World Heritage sites.

Meskell (Anthropology/Stanford Univ.; The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa, 2011, etc.) examines the origin, mission, and impact of UNESCO’s World Heritage program, offering a well-researched argument that UNESCO has become “a mere shadow of its former ambition for peace and mutual understanding between peoples.” The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was founded in London in 1945, responding to the war’s “programmatic devastation of culture and heritage.” Its lofty mission was to foster peace, provide humanitarian assistance, and promote intercultural respect. This utopian goal included saving archaeological and cultural sites throughout the world, deeming them treasures for all of humanity. Meskell notes, to her regret, that archaeological research soon became subsumed “and heritage more likely to be considered architecture.” Rather than support excavations, which had the potential to reveal knowledge of the ancient past, UNESCO’s World Heritage program shifted to preservation and restoration of monuments that attracted tourism. Once described as “the laboratory of ideas,” UNESCO evolved into an “agency for branding” when it created a list of World Heritage sites that provoked competition among countries vying for the prestige of having a site inscribed. Because European nations were prominent in vetting the World Heritage List, non-Western countries felt slighted. Meskell portrays UNESCO as a bureaucracy mired in paper: “handbooks, manuals, guidelines, and other documents in multiple languages”; thousands of pages of documentation must be provided to support an application for inscription. Acceptance to the list sometimes causes unforeseen problems, as with Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Temple, for example, when inscription “inflamed a long-standing history of violence” between Cambodia and Thailand and involved the U.S., as well, when companies, such as Chevron, coveted access to natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand. The creation of World Heritage sites, Meskell asserts, has “implications for power, authority, and legitimation” that may expose a “collision of worldviews” and even incite “dystopian scenarios” where terrorists or dissidents intentionally target listed sites.

A revealing investigation of the complexities of UNESCO’s mission.

Pub Date: July 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-064834-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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