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“Culture isn’t just dead stones and statues; culture is life. Culture is, you know, all the ways in which we move and interact together as peoples.”

In 2005, the United Nations agreed to a new framework called Responsibility to Protect (R2P) aimed at preventing genocide and crimes against humanity. However, this norm neglected to protect cultural heritage explicitly, despite the fact that the destruction of cultural heritage, including intangible heritage such as traditions and religious practices, often goes hand in hand with ethnic cleansing. This dynamic is playing out today in Xinjiang China, home to the ethnic minority Uyghur people.

In this episode, former Getty President Jim Cuno speaks with Simon Adams, president and CEO of the Center for Victims of Torture, and Rachel Harris, expert on Uyghur culture and professor of ethnomusicology at SOAS, University of London, about the role of the UN in protecting cultural heritage in times of crisis and the current case of the Uyghur people in China. Adams and Harris are contributors to the recent publication Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities, edited by Jim Cuno and Thomas G. Weiss and available free of charge from Getty Publications.

a photograph of plain rounded graves on the ground with plants at one end

A local graveyard in southern Xinjiang in 2012. Image: Rachel Harris

More to explore:
Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, former president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art + Ideas. I am your host for a three-episode series on the need to protect cultural heritage during times of war and mass atrocities.
SIMON ADAMS: Culture isn’t just dead stones and statues; cul...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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