Looking for the future in the rubble of Palmyra: Destruction, reconstruction and identity

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The destruction of the ancient ruins of Palmyra by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) in September 2015 shocked the world, with some going so far as to decry it as a war crime. This paper explores why the razing of Palmyra resonated so strongly with the international community, demonstrating how the relationship between urban space and collective memory made this event so powerful. Looking to the future, it suggests that the toughest test for Palmyra is yet to come. The challenge of post-conflict reconstruction in sites such as this is inextricably bound up with questions of identity, memory and power, all of which will need to be worked out when the war in Syria eventually comes to an end.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-83
Number of pages3
Early online date5 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Statement: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Geoforum. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Geoforum, [69, (2016)] DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.12.002

© 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • Reconstruction
  • Urban planning
  • Memory
  • Syria
  • Palmyra


  • Peace and Conflict


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