Professor Lynn Meskell
Tuesday 10 March, 2015
Report of activities by Professor Lynn Meskell (Director of the Stanford Archaeology Center, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University), Senior Research Visitor January – February 2015.
During my time at Keble as Senior Research Visitor I was researching the history and development of UNESCO, with a particular focus on its mission to conserve and promote World Heritage internationally. As an archaeologist and ethnographer, my work has been specifically focused on the politics surrounding cultural heritage sites within larger global arenas. Engaging with other fellows at Keble who have expertise from a wide array of disciplines from archaeology to international diplomacy greatly benefited my thinking about a new book-length project that I tentatively call, A Future in Ruins. Being based in Oxford further allowed me to connect with other scholars working on international organizations, particularly UNESCO, and this significantly changed the direction of this next writing project.
At Keble I was affiliated with the Creativity cluster of the ASC and this enabled me to reframe my book project in a number of ways. First, I began to consider the founding of UNESCO in a rather more creative context, seeing the contributions of literary figures and scientists as together forging an institution that was both utopian and evolutionary in its mission. Rather than a simple technocratic regime, the moral and social evolutionary aspects of the organization came to the fore. The project involved tracing everything from the utopian creations of Thomas and Aldous Huxley right through to the world of Wikileaks. New aspects of this work were presented to the Creativity cluster at Keble in late February. Lastly, some of the political maneuverings I had been tracking over the years in the World Heritage Committee also took on more creative valences. Perhaps instead of positioning the practices of international delegates as inherently corrupt one might argue that these diplomats would instead see their actions as creatively circumventing the rules of World Heritage that for so long has been charged with being Eurocentric and globally unrepresentative. In sum, I am very grateful for my time at Keble, which was stimulating and productive, and I hope to continue these conservations with my colleagues in future.