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Research seminar

Unpacking expert authority: The case of Italy's UNESCO taskforce

Add to calendar 2022-05-16 13:30 2022-05-16 15:00 Europe/Rome Unpacking expert authority: The case of Italy's UNESCO taskforce Seminar Room B, Villa La Fonte/ ZOOM YYYY-MM-DD


16 May 2022

13:30 - 15:00 CEST


Seminar Room B, Villa La Fonte/ ZOOM

This research seminar, in the framework of the EUI Crisis of Expert Knowledge and Authority Interdisciplinary research cluster, features a presentation by Raghavi Viswanath and Jessica Wiseman.

Over the past decade, threats to cultural heritage have become increasingly imminent and grave. Despite being at the frontline of preservation efforts, UNESCO has failed to generate a prompt, effective, and coordinated response to these threats. Italy’s UNESCO taskforce is intended to go some way to address the coordination deficit, insofar as it creates a deployable unit of experts to assist with preservation efforts. 

Albeit well-intentioned, the taskforce ignores the increasing evidence that exogenous, expert-led heritage protection initiatives often work to make heritage more, not less, vulnerable in the long-run. Heritage debates in the Global South show that expert-led initiatives often perpetuate epistemic violence, by exclusively promoting and validating expert/museum narratives and marginalizing indigenous epistemologies and cultures.  

Despite these dangers, there has been little debate about how the UNESCO taskforce might avoid, mitigate, or manage these consequences. This paper hopes to situate the taskforce within the broader backdrop of international heritage interventions, especially in emergency contexts. Drawing on the local reception of past interventions, the paper will highlight the potential epistemic, political, and material harms of the presently proposed design of the taskforce. Using this, the paper will demonstrate what lessons can be learnt from indigenous preservation efforts in the Global South to make the taskforce more reflexive.


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