CFP: Heritage Diplomacy Panel

Association of Critical Heritage Studies,
Second biannual Conference, Canberra, 2-4th December 2014

CFP: Heritage Diplomacy Panel

Submission date: 1 June

Organizer: Tim Winter, Research Professor, Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific, Deakin University

This panel moves between the national and international to interrogate the ties between heritage, conservation and diplomacy.

Recent years have seen a flurry of interest in UNESCO and its historical development. However, given that the role played by international agencies in the governance of culture and nature remains an important but under-researched aspect of globalisation in the era since World War II, we have yet to detail the story of the ongoing dance that has taken place between nationalisms and the ethos of cosmopolitan internationalism in shaping the global expansion of institutionalized conservation. As a consequence, the analytical frames capable of making sense of the systemic problems that now face the flagship of heritage conservation, the World Heritage movement, still need to be constructed.

One emerging trend appears clear—that of the re-calibration in global discussions about culture and nature through the growing strength of non-Western nations and the prominence now given to voices that have hitherto been marginalised by longstanding asymmetries of power. In the field of heritage conservation, European experts and countries have historically enjoyed a privileged position in influencing policy. Today’s economic and political shifts however mean that others have joined them, with China, Japan, Qatar and Singapore all investing heavily in heritage to strengthen cultural and diplomatic ties across their respective regions, and beyond. Heritage conservation has proved particularly effective for mobilising positive bilateral relations via the provision of cultural sector aid. And more broadly, heritage diplomacy has become a productive space for philanthropic and other ‘civil society’ agencies.

Given the unparalleled prestige of the world heritage system, today it is common place for states around the world, particularly those in developing countries, to nominate sites for economic or political purposes, and many experts now accept that world heritage listing too often increases the pressures associated with heritage conservation, rather than help alleviate them. It is widely recognised that the listing process has, in recent years, become explicitly politicised with countries bloc voting and pushing aggressively for listing against the advice of technical experts. Simultaneously, culture is increasingly becoming the cause of diplomatic imponderables and crises. International apologies and extra-national conflict memorial sites remain sensitive issues; and violent attacks on symbolically coded archaeological sites and museums are indicative of the political entanglements heritage sites now find themselves in.

In picking up such themes, this panels seeks to build on, and extend, existing work on the diplomatic issues around museums’ collections, to explore those heritage diplomacy entanglements that have yet to receive the attention they deserve. The panel aims to respond to the important shifts that are occurring in international heritage governance on the back of today’s larger economic and geopolitical changes. It will seek to reveal the ties between heritage, conservation and diplomacy, at both the domestic and international level, and papers that historicise such themes are particularly welcome.

If you are interested in submitting a paper please use the link below:

If you would like to discuss an idea for a paper prior to submission, please email Tim Winter on:

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