The notion of heritage is surely one of the best tools social scientists have at their disposal to analyse how societies deal with their past, especially regarding their complex and ambiguous relationship with history and memory. However, heritage is also a way of constructing our present and locality, in transnational contexts as much as in local communities.
The recent concepts of Biodiversity, Cultural Diversity or Intangible Cultural Heritage proposed by Unesco to defend non-architectural heritage have met with considerable success, reinforce the centrality of such principles as loss, safeguard, and development that have already changed the social and economic landscapes of sites classified as World Heritage.
However, critical views on heritagisation are strikingly uncommon because heritage, either material, natural or immaterial, is often looked upon as authentic or irreducible civilisational testimony, as well as a real powerful tourism-related tool of economic development. Heritage is generally studied and used by specialists in charge of it (curators, politicians, economic agents or associations) as a « corpus » per se, to be considered and valorised as a mere ‘civilisational trace’ , cut off from the social, historical and cultural context that produced it. The constitution of museum collections or the publication of Unesco’s world heritage lists are nevertheless the result of an act of classification whose criteria are as much reliant on cultural and historical factors and the people involved in selecting and manipulating heritage, as it has been observed in other social phenomena, such as kinship, religion and economy.
In other words, the potential elevation of natural, material and immaterial items to a heritage status – and the effects this may have – must be taken and analysed as a social fact like any other. The recent development of heritage studies inside academia and the growing interest in heritage outside of it offer an ideal opportunity to think heritagisation as a social practice and a world view, inscribed in the bricolage dynamics that we find thriving between the global and the local, between history, memory and identity.
In fact, a growing number of researchers (at doctoral and postdoctoral level, but not only) are today engaged in interrogating heritage objects and practices within the humanities (archeology, history, political sciences, geography, anthropology, etc.).
The Network of Researchers on Heritagisations, its blog and its mailinglist aim to provide easy access to information and updated news (supplied by its members). All announcements concerning conferences, calls for papers, publication opportunities, job offers, courses, symposiums and workshops should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org to be posted on the blog and sent to the mailing list. We insist on the fact that the body of the message must contain all information and, optionnaly a complementary file may be attached and a link provided for futher details. The relevance and liveliness of the blog depends entirely on the members’ shared commitment to exchange information, so we encourage all to participate.
The Network has already organised a workshop in Aix-en-Provence, November 2010, “Beyond the heritage consensus. Anthropology of resistance to heritagisation“. A publication came out in the journal Civilisations (ULB, Belgium) in 2012. In February 2012, an international conference was held in Evora (Portugal), called “Local Vocabularies of Heritage. Variations, Negotiations and Transformations” and hosted by the Cidehus.UE. A peer reviewed selection of the papers appeared in the Lit Verlag volume Les vocabulaires locaux du “patrimoine”.Traductions, négociations et transformations as a collective book edited by Julien Bondaz, Florence Graezer-Bideau, Cyril Isnart and Anais Leblon in 2014. Recently, the Network and the University of Québec in Montréal have created the Respatrimoni-Uqam Prize in Heritage Studies to support the publication of a PhD at the Presses Universitaires de Rennes.
If you wish to be part of the Network, send us a short biographical note (of no more than 10 lines), including your contact details, publications and main research interests.
More than 350 people have joined the network – from students, PhD. holders, academic teachers and researchers to professionals of the curation field. With your help and active participation we hope to make this network a solid base for the development of an open, collective and critical reflection on heritage and heritage-related issues.
Editorial team of the blog Respatrimoni :
Post review : Julien Bondaz
Blog : Anais Leblon
Registration : Cyril Isnart