IDENTITY, TERRITORY, CULTURE and their manifestations within a space of conflict
DATE: Spring 2016
SCHOOL: Harvard Graduate School of Design; Cambridge, Massachusetts
TEAM: Myrna Ayoub and Kristina Eldrenkamp
PROFESSOR: Marianne Potvin, Robert Pietrusko
PROJECT LOCATION: Syria
PROGRAM: research proposal, diagrams, mapping, movie
Identity is a broad, complex concept that can be defined through many parameters, among them heritage sites, cultural traditions, urban patterns, ethnic and sectarian divisions, and political boundaries. In the conflict in Syria, many of these parameters are volatile and transient. If identity is tied to territory, does it disappear when these lines are redrawn by competing forces? If it is tied to customs, how is it impacted by the destruction of the physical spaces where these customs occur?
Identity in Syria is primarily discussed by Western media and academics to understand the politics of the conflict, but these analyses are oversimplified and resort to sectarian and political boundaries, which are frequently conflated and are insufficient to describe the complexities of the civil war. By challenging the current methods of conflict analysis, we ask, how does identity manifest itself within a space of conflict?
This intervention proposes a new method of cartographic analysis through questions of space and questions of violence, which creates a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between changes in political boundaries and Syrian identity. By layering the parameters used to define identity, specifically historical political boundaries, borders claimed by different parties during the conflict, internal fragmentation, ethnic zones, destroyed cultural heritage sites, and destroyed civilian’s structures, we start to understand how identity registers in an area with shifting borders. Collectively, these sets of data begin to illustrate the diverse manifestations of identity in spaces of conflict. This intervention becomes a tool to geospatially analyze the abstract concept of identity through the use of hard data to interrogate current modes of representation of the conflict.