Learning from Ground Zero: The Presence of Absence at Two Sites of Destruction

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan and the destroyed World Trade Center in New York City prompted almost immediate discussion and controversy over whether to reconstruct these structures and thereby fill the void on their respective landscapes. Despite the difference in their contexts, the two sites of destruction implicate a number of similar issues, including: respect for or mitigation of the void; pre and post destruction narratives about the sites; the concept of loss; inscription and erasure of memory on a lived, monumental landscape; the concept of heritage applied to the site; perceptions of value; the politics and ethics of decision-making concerning the impacted terrain; assertions, contestations, and goals of stakeholdership; the aesthetics of reconstruction; the symbolism of reconstruction; the emotional and affective dimensions of reconstruction; economic development after destruction and its intended beneficiaries; what is considered recovery and by whom; the future that reconstruction is anticipated to generate; and formal interpretive scripts about the destruction and the physical form these scripts take. This paper considers the difficulty of achieving a built solution for these voids, focusing on the people living close to the sites who were most directly affected by the destruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Future of the Bamiyan Buddha Statues
Subtitle of host publicationHeritage Reconstruction in Theory and Practice
EditorsMasanori Nagaoka
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783030513160
ISBN (Print)9789231004193
StatePublished - Dec 7 2020


  • Ground Zero
  • Bamiyan
  • Contested heritage
  • Dissonance
  • Discourse
  • Memory
  • Stakeholders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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