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International Conference Reinventing Cultural Heritage

International Conference Reinventing Cultural Heritage


Postponement announcement

As we would eagerly anticipate our meeting on Reinventing Cultural Heritage conference in Tehran (October 20-22, 2019), unexpected happenings affected the prospect of the participants' presence. Therefore, the conference committee and the academic board decided to postpone the conference until the removal of the logistical barriers.

On the bright side, our endeavors were not wholly unacknowledged. The conference is registered as an international joint activity and its abstracts will be indexed in the prestigious Islamic World Science Citation Center (ISC). Therefore, the project is still open, and we keep working to proceed with our project towards completion.

Mehrdad Arabestani

Chair of academic board,

University of Tehran   

October 18, 2019


A Joint international conference of the University of Tehran and the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS, Paris, Fr)

With the support of the Anthropological Society of Iran (ASI), Institute of Archeology (University of Tehran), Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism,  and the French Institute for Research in Iran (IFRI)

20-23 October 2019

This international conference gathers a multidisciplinary team composed of anthropologists, historians, linguists and archaeologists in the aim to study cultural heritage as an object through a variety of methodological approaches and from case studies mainly, but not exclusively, questioning the Iranian domain. It is a scientific contribution in the frame of the MOU signed in November 2017 between the EHESS and the University of Tehran. The transdisciplinary approach of this international conference will also seek the consideration of multiple scales, from local to global spectrum.  

Cultural Heritage as a collection of tangible and intangible objects is nowadays a category so familiar, so frequently used on a daily basis, that it seems almost immanent. However, the cultural heritage awareness in the modern sense is a relatively recent invention, especially taking into consideration the age of some of its objects, such as the famous Kaluts of the Lut desert in Iran. In France, the concern for safeguarding the traces of the past does not really appear until the beginning of the nineteenth century and, at the same time, the categories of art and monument. It is not a mere coincidence if this process is concomitant with the institutionalization of the human sciences and, peculiarly, of the European ethnographic knowledge. This phenomenon is even more recent in Iran.

Far from being passive legacies of a collectivity ([ethnic] groups, nations, humanity) with an immediate substance, these ancestral legacies that belong to the fields of environment, art, monument, objects and/or traditional knowledge and know-how, are also subject to processes of symbolical detachment,  transmission and sharing, and appropriation (individual or collective) that are also roots for identity construction. All those steps have their basis on phenomena of identification; legitimation; interpretation but, also, of involvement given their emotional charges. The most recent examples of these cultural heritage institution processes are undoubtedly the UNESCO lists of intangible cultural heritage based on the recent invention by the UNESCO of this "new" category of cultural heritage that is the living heritage whose identification is no longer restricted to outside experts but to the very actors of these traditional practices.

This "patrimonial" turning point invites to question further the making processes of cultural heritage. The field appears abyssal: from the monument to its indigenous and/or global exegeses, going through the renewal of its techniques, categories and objects. Facing this overload of viewpoints, we decided to narrow here the focus on three main questions that are at the core of the contemporary phenomena of the cultural heritage reinventions.

As pointed out by Daniel Fabre, understanding the contemporary modes of attribution of a cultural value requires above all to interrogate the past: what are the dialectical relationships between historical evidence (scriptural, monuments; objects; traditional know-how) and modes of contemporary valorization? What is the impact of the development of new technologies (geophysical prospection; drones, etc.) on the contemporary valorization of the cultural heritage? How do the UNESCO's global policies contribute to these contemporary cultural heritage renewals, and what are their impact?

In order to answer these questions, this international conference is organized according to the following three axes:

1-Cultural Heritage and History: ambiguous relationships?

Within the framework of this axis will be analyzed the often ambiguous relationships between cultural heritage and its historical mediums. How can the analysis of the historical and /or archaeological sources available reshape the understanding of a patrimonial object, that is, the exegesis that has usually been associated with it? What are, in return, the effects of such a retrospection on the phenomena of identifying as cultural heritage?

2-New technologies, new cultural heritage?

This axis will examine how the development of new technologies allows professionals (archaeologists, historians and anthropologists) to rethink not only the apprehension of cultural heritage, from a methodological viewpoint but also its understanding. In the last instance, will be questioned here the aporia inherent to the researcher's posture: readily shaped in today's world as a hyper-scientist, this posture remains however dependent on technologies in perpetual evolutions as well as the multiple imaginaries that these technologies contribute to generating.

3- Patrimonial quests? Between UNESCO's policies and local cultural heritages: varied effects

How do the global policies enacted by the UNESCO reinvent the logic of the cultural heritage awareness at the national and /or local level? From an analysis mainly focused on the Iranian field that will be examined against other examples, we will seek here to grasp the dialectic between these different scales.

A round table gathering actors of the processes of cultural heritage shaping will also be organized within this session.

Conference Committee

  • General Chair: Emilia Nercissians (Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tehran)
  • Chair of Academic Board: Mehrdad Arabestani (Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tehran, President of Anthropological Society of Iran)


Academic Board (In alphabetical order)

  • Mostafa DEHPAHLAVAN (Archeologist, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, University of Tehran)
  • Claudine GAUTHIER (Professor in Anthropologist, IIAC-LAHIC (EHESS)/University of Bordeaux
  • Alireza HASANZADEH (Anthropologist; Research Institute of Cultural Heritage & Tourism, Tehran)
  • Sepideh PARSAPAJOUH (Anthropologist; CNRS CR, CéSor; EHESS, Paris)
  • Fabrizio SPEZIALE (Professor at the EHESS, CEIAS)

Publication and medium

 The proceedings of the international conference will be published at Brepols (Turnhout, BE). The medium of the conference is English.

Conference program


Registration and Reception (7:00- 9:00 PM)

Venue: Negarestan Museum Garden, Shariatmadar Rafi' St., Daneshsara St., Baharestan Square, Tehran


Report: Mehrdad Arabestani (10:15-10:30)

Panel 1: Protection and Public Awareness (10:30-12:00)

  1. A Postmodern Approach Contribution to the Raising of Public Awareness about Cultural Heritage in Iran, Focusing on Education

Samira Ebrahimpour (10:30-10:45)

  1. An Introduction to Illegal Human Factors in the Destruction of Historical Sites in Iran

Mostapha Dehpahlavan and Bahareh Torshizi (10:45- 11:00)

  1. How are Old Houses of New Julfa Talking through the Language of Modern Architecture?

Emilia Nercissians (11:00-11:15)

  1. A Quest for Authenticity in Iran's Old Houses and Neighborhoods

Pooya Alaedini and Reihan Shahvali (11:15-11:30)

Discussant: Pooya Alaedini (University of Tehran)


LUNCH Break (12:00 – 13:30)

Panel 2: Heritage Fabrication (13:30-15:00)


  1. The Shifting Concept of Cultural Heritage, from National to Global to Local, and the Impact of UNESCO's Law-making

Janet Blake (13:30-13:50)

  1. Cultural Heritage: Afterwardness, antagonism and hegemony

Mehrdad Arabestani (13:50-14:10)

  1. Dotted History: From mobilization to occultation in Cathar country

Sylvie Sagnes (14:10-14:30)

Discussant: Zohreh Anvari (University of Tehran)

COFFEE BREAK (15:00 – 15:30)

Panel 3: Technologies and Heritage (15:30- 17:00)

  1. Photogrammetric Study and Analysis of Underwater Archaeological Sites based on two new Methods: Burst-Mode Photography and underwater filming

Iman Khosravi and Mohammad Ghamari (15:30-15:50)

  1. Dental Anthropology, Horizons, and Limitations

Elham Farnam (15:50-16:10)

  1. The Necessity and Process of Creating Virtual Museum of Iran

 Mohammad Yari and Shiirin Gholamalamdari (16:10-16:30)

Discussant: Emilia Nercissians (University of Tehran)


Panel 4: Living Heritage 1 (10:30-12:00)

  1. Trans-national Identity in Pilgrimage of Konya: the role of language and rituals

Alireza Hassanzadeh, Somayeh Karimi, and Afsarol Molouk Malak (10:30-10:45)

  1. Typological Correlation Between the Adposition type and the Order of Verb and Direct Object in Khalaj Language

Pooneh Mostafavi and Faryar Akhlaghi (10:45-11:00)

  1. The Roma/Gypsy Cultural Heritage from Cultural Anthropological Point of View Csaba Prónai (11:00-11:15)
  2. Balochistan Pottery Cultures: a showcase of prehistoric societies (case examples: Kalok, Fanuj, Holunchokan)

Hossein Vahedi and Sajjad Samiei (11:15-11:30)

Discussant: Alireza Hassanzadeh (Research Institute of Cultural Heritage)

LUNCH BREAK (12:00-13:30)

Panel 5: Living Heritage 2 (13:30 – 15:00)

  1. How can Cultural Heritage be Shaped and Reshaped by Oral Tradition? The case study of some Zoroastrian holy shrines of the Yazd province

Claudine Gauthier (13:30-13:45)

  1. Zoroastrians' Identity Representation through Food Rituals: A case study among Zoroastrians of Yazd

Fariba Seddighi (13:45-14:00)

  1. The Shaping of Zoroastrian Cultural Heritage in Exhibitions and Ethnographic Museums: Efforts of the Zoroastrians of Iran to identify and transmit their traditional identity to new generations

Bahman Moradian (14:00-14:15)

  1. Traditional Skills of Building and Sailing Iranian Lanj Boats: An inscribed intangible cultural heritage and an evaluation of general and local policies to conserve it

Shadi Kalantar (14:15-14:30)

Discussant: Mehrdad Arabestani (University of Tehran)

COFFEE BREAK (15:00-15:30)

Panel 6: Archeological Cases (15:30- 17:00)

  1. The Tin Road

Michaël Guichard and Grégory Chambon (15:30-15:50)

  1. New Insights Into the Late Pleistocene Human Settlement of the Iranian Central Plateau: A first OSL-based chronology for the open-air Paleolithic site of Mirak (Iran)

Maryam Heydari, Guillaume Guérin, Guillaume Jamet, Mohammad Akhavan Kharazian, Milad Hashemi, Hamed Vahdati Nasab and Gilles Berillon (15:50-16:10)

  1. New Insights Into the Late Pleistocene Human Settlement of the Iranian Central Plateau: A first OSL-based chronology for the open-air Paleolithic site of Mirak (Iran)

Kourosh Mohammadkhani and Sébastien Gondet (16:10-16:30)

Discussant: Hamed Vahdati Nasab (Tarbiat Modares University)

General discussion and closing remarks (17:00-17:30)