Co-organised by the Cultural Geography Chair Group of Wageningen University, The Liberation Day Committee 1945 Wageningen (as part of the European Network of Places of Peace), and Inholland University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands, this forthcoming conference on ‘Post-Conflict, Cultural Heritage and Regional Development seeks to further our knowledge about, and understanding of, the perceptions, processes and problems related to some of these places of former conflicts that have, over time, been transformed into key sites for memory, education and consumption, or even commodification.
This multidisciplinary event considers the social, political, economic and developmental dimensions as well as potential of such places alongside highlighting issues associated with the establishment of such heritage sites. It also explores how these sites may be developed as ‘peace institutions’ that aim to encourage the prevention of future conflicts. Aside from interesting sessions organised around various related themes, there will be keynote presentations by Professor Gregory Ashworth, Dr. Karen Till and Dr. Philip Stone.
Conflicts sometimes lead to violent encounters that result in casualties and damage to infrastructure, housing and the environment. Often, traumatic experiences brought about by these become the subject of commemorations that contribute to places linked to them gaining material, social and/or symbolic significance, within the locality, country or even regionally. This is particularly true when residents and policymakers actively implement initiatives to embrace them as part of collective memory, pedagogy and/or as local heritage attractions for domestic and international visitors.
Every year thousands, sometimes millions, of people visit places like Auschwitz, Ground Zero, Hiroshima, Choeung Ek and Gettysburg. Wageningen, marked as the City of Liberation, and the setting for this international conference, also attracts more than 120,000 visitors annually as part of national commemoration and liberation festivals in the Netherlands. These are testament to the popularity of these sites although they too can at times be plagued with criticisms and controversy, pertaining to issues like commercialization, sustainability, multiple interpretations of history and so on.