Association of Critical Heritage Studies Conference, Montreal, Canada (7-10 June 2016)
Maverick Heritages. Ugliness, Discomfort and Illegality in the Political and Social Construction of Heritage
Convenors: Cristiana Panella (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren) and Walter Little (University at Albany, SUNY)
With regard to the main question of the 3rd ACHS Biannual Conference, ‘What does heritage change?’, the convenors of this session propose ethnographic evidence of contradictory spheres of value by showing how encounters between official rhetorics of heritage and borderline/illegal ethics and objects produce social change. In particular, they explore, through an inclusive approach, the social and political constructions of heritage by questioning the aesthetic dichotomies of beauty/ugliness, properness (goodness)/moral pollution formality/informality, order/disorder, and cleanliness/dirtiness, among others, as part of the representations of heritage. They include in the discussion, those places of social memory that are outside of official local, national, and international naming organizations’ considerations of heritage. Imbricated in these processes are layers of opacity and transparency, rooted in official regulations and customary and common practices, that allow for the heritization of places and concurrent aesthetic and political negotiations of those places by the heterogeneous categories of actors at stake (tourists, vendors, local officials, residents).
The first section of the panel focuses on relationships between regulated places and ‘alien’ actors. Despite most heritage sites being strictly regulated through juridical, deontological or moral norms, ‘unauthorized’ actors (for instance, street vendors, beggars or ‘clandestine’ migrants), if not invading and occupying the sites themselves, place themselves in the public places around heritized places. While such actors tend to be negatively characterized by politicians, city planners, and formal-sector business owners as a blight on the aesthetics of the heritage sites, it is far from clear that those who visit heritage sites and those vendors sell in and near the sites conceive of such a dichotomous relationship. Such frictions generated by the co-habitation of different spheres of value configure the aesthetics of heritage spaces as complexes of social, political, and economic processes.
In the second section of the panel we extend our reflections on the structural contradictions imbricated in the rhetorics of beauty with regard to heritized objects (antiquities and ethnographic items circulating through the international market and ‘heritage’ logos). We investigate the interrelations between opacity and transparency — the situations establishingethical and aesthetical taken-for-granted intrinsic values in order to show that the sentiment of ‘beauty’ and ‘goodness’ of a given final product (objects, practices, individuals or categories) is directly proportional to the degree of opacity of production stages of products.
Convenors will be pleased to receive papers fitting the parts below:
Part I – The Politics of Aesthetical Authenticity in Relation to the Anti-Aesthetics of Pollution
Throughout the world there are numerous examples of the proper order and organization of places and people being inverted. In heritage sites, despite the dominant discourses of the state, UNESCO and tourism industry, the sense of objects, places, and words can take on counter aesthetics and alternative meanings for political and economic reasons. Here, we explore how political and aesthetical authenticity is constructed in different heritage domains through a selective concept of aesthetical pollution.
Part II – Ontologies of Beauty and Illegality within the Clandestine Art Trade
The construction of heritage and clandestine art trade are often mutually constituted in heritage sites. This slot focuses on the organic relationship between beauty and Illegality in art trade. Here, we question how places are affected by the aesthetics and ethics that serve to brand a place/object, leading to new negotiations of value through alternative concepts of beauty that emerge from the ways that places and objects are heritized and used within logics of tourism and market.
Please submit a 600 word abstract in French or English through the conference website:
The deadline for submission of abstracts is November 1st, 2015.