Hampi Beyond the Iconic: Geographical Imagination(s) and Displacement of Local Communities
Krupa Rajangam (Founder-Director, Saythu…linking people and heritage) 

The word displacement is typically not associated with cultural heritage conservation unlike possibly the domain of nature conservation, where the realities of eviction – as a consequence of demarcating and managing a protected area for biodiversity conservation – have been critiqued in some circles. In this session I foreground displacement of local communities from Hampi World Heritage Site, Karnataka, India (through ethnographic vignettes) not merely as a singular event in a past that has happened but as an ongoing everyday reality for resident communities. I situate my critique within critical conservation studies scholarship and recognize two socio-political realities. One, heritage authorities, experts, and enthusiasts are for the most part caring of residents and knowledgeable about the site, and two, the relations of power amongst Hampi’s resident communities are unequal – not all resident groups/individuals are equally powerless, some of them do manage to exert considerable agency (to their detriment). Such recognition, however, does not exclude the everyday reality that, in the name of site conservation-management, UNESCO’s World Heritage label has led to the constitution of a heritage regime that steadily (re)shapes the Hampi landscape and its people as governable subjects of the regime.

The People of Petra and the UNESCO Effect: the Resettlement of the Bdoul and their New Identity
Shatha Abu-Khafajah (University of Jordan) and Elena Ronza (Sela for Training and Protection of Heritage) 

The sudden absence of revenue from tourism imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic provided a space to think of the identity of Petra beyond tourism. Umm Sayhoun is the village where Petra’s people (the Bdoul Bedouin) settled after being evicted from the caves of Petra in preparation for its designation as a World Heritage Site in 1985. Our research traces the concept of people’s eviction from places with “outstanding universal values” to the colonial ideologies and practices implied in the U.S. National Park Service that inspired the World Heritage Convention. However, in this presentation we shift from the archetypical story of resettlement and focus on the Bdoul’s contemporary issues as explained by themselves one year after the pandemic. Uncertainty and resilience shaped the identity of the place and the people of Umm Sayhoun for the last 35 years of resettlement. Two topics mark the recent discussions we had with the Bdoul about the transformation in their identity/ identities: fragmentation and lack of dignity. Outward and inward reflections from our respondents present the dominant bureaucracies as contextual and peripheral details of this transformation. Instead of reacting to the benefits and the threats of the displacement, the accounts deliver a critical self-reflection to articulate and enact the Bdoul in the transformation of their identity/ identities. 

This Webinar is co-chaired by Lynn Meskell and Claudia Liuzza


Krupa Rajangam, PhD (Critical Conservation Studies), is a heritage practitioner-scholar with over 20 years field-based experience. She is Founder-Director of the Bengaluru-based socially-engaged heritage collaborative Saythu that is led by conservation professionals. The group works to promote conservation as an integrated inclusive social process, by bridging theory (academy), practice (field), and peoples’ lived experiences, through various initiatives, projects, and teaching-learning engagements. Her most recent stint as an institutional scholar (at the National Institute of Advanced Studies) was undertaking a critical heritage ethnography of everyday conservation-management of Hampi World Heritage Site, India.

Shatha Abu-Khafajah graduated as an architect from the University of Jordan in 1997. She specialized in documentation and conservation of archaeological heritage while doing her master degree in archaeology. Her PhD in cultural heritage management from Newcastle University, acquired in 2007, enabled her to synthesise architecture and archaeology with special interest in establishing a sustainable approach to heritage management in the Arab region that is community-based and context-oriented. She is currently an associate professor at the Hashemite University in Jordan.

Maria Elena Ronza is a naturalized Jordanian, who graduated in Architecture from the “Università La Sapienza” in Rome in 2000 and completed her Master degree in Archaeology at University of Jordan in 2004.She served on numerous national and international archaeological and conservation projects in Jordan, including several Department Of Antiquities of Jordan projects between 2000 and 2005.Since 2004 she is the Co-director of Restorations of the Tell Hesban Archaeological Park Project.Between 2006 and 2009 she served as Consultant for restoration in the Tourist Development Project of King Abdallah I Palace in Ma’an. She served as Project Manager (2011-2014) and as Project Co-director (2014-2017) with the American Center for Oriental Research’s Temple of Winged Lions Cultural Resources Management Initiative.Her career focuses on sustainable tourist development of archaeological and heritage sites and on community engagement in heritage management. In June 2015, she founded with four associates a non-profit company, Sela for Training and Protection of Heritage, aiming at building local capacity within communities for a more sustainable management of the Jordanian heritage.


The series UNESCO, World Heritage, and Human Rights is co-organized by Prof. Lynn Meskell at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Claudia Liuzza fellow at the DUCIGS/Rethinking Diplomacy Program (RDP), and Prof. Ana Vrdoljak at the University of Technology Sydney. The series is part of the Our World Heritage, a yearlong global initiative to discuss and reflect on the challenges of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention on the occasion of the upcoming  50th anniversary.