Tobias Strahl (Sarajevo): Cultural Networks in (armed) conflicts

Conventional cultural property protection in armed conflicts has its theoretical foundation in the so-called european enlightenment, historicism, and the preservation of monuments of european provenance. Its legal foundations have emerged under the impact of two devastating wars. For the actual protection of objects of culture in armed conflicts it is still not applicable.

Never has more culture been destroyed in conflicts than in the century of international conventions on cultural heritage preservation in conflicts. In my lecture, I will use tangible examples to search for traces and causes of cultural destruction in (armed) conflicts. I try to show why current cultural heritage preservation is doomed to fail according to its underlying concepts of culture, heritage and conflict. Special attention is given to cultural networks of social collectives, hybrid and asymmetric forms of conflict and destabilization operations along cultural conflict lines.

Tobias Strahl was born in Dresden in 1978. In 1996, he joined the Gebirgsjägerbataillon 571 (Mountain Infantry Battalion 571) as a temporary soldier and was trained as a mountain infantry squad leader and sniper. In 1999, he participated in the invasion of Kosovo with his unit in the First Contingent of the Kosovo Force. In 2000, he retired from active service and transferred to the Bundeswehr Reserve as a non-commissioned officer. From 2004 to 2010 Tobias Strahl studied art history and literature at the Technical University of Dresden. Besides his studies he worked as a freelance journalist. This activity led him to Afghanistan for the first time in 2005. During his studies Tobias Strahl completed four further assignments in Kosovo and Afghanistan. In 2008, he switched to the career of a reserve officer. After his return from Afghanistan, he completed his doctoral thesis at TU Dresden on cultural heritage destruction in the post-Yugoslav wars (1991 to 1999 and 2004 Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo: a critical discourse analysis). During this period he researched and lived in Belgrade, Prizren and Prishtina, Sarajevo and Zagreb. From January 2015 to September 2017, a professional stay took him to Nigeria. Since October 2017 he  is living permanently in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Tobias Strahl is a Major in the Reserve and Intercultural Mission Advisor at the Bundeswehr Operations Command.

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