Organisation profile

The Heritage and History research group leverages expertise present across UEA to examine the relationship between heritage and history. How might we think about heritage historically, and what might thinking this way bring to the understanding of heritage and its practice; local, global, or otherwise? Defined broadly, the history of heritage encompasses the development of any number of disciplines, all of which are opening to enquiry about their own histories: anthropology, archaeology, architecture, art history, museology, and history itself among them. So, too, is heritage an inextricably historical phenomenon, not least in its entanglement with the practices of global governance, diplomacy, and notions of development that emerged in the post-war period through institutions like UNESCO (and in the interwar period through UNESCO’s predecessors). How, though, can we bring historical reflection to bear in a way that interrogates the assumptions implicit in the way that many of these developments have been considered? Where might interrogating such assumptions lead in terms of a more reflexive and critically aware heritage practice?

These are not immaterial questions. To take the obvious example, in the last couple of years, decolonisation has become a heritage-industry buzzword. The term is increasingly (some might say) devoid of substantive meaning, but also now prevalent across museums, university courses, ‘heritage places’ and the institutions responsible for them. Yet how might we grapple with the history of this word and its material and other consequences? Decolonisation was a term popularised by European nations as their empires crumbled and their governments sought to retain some form of control over how independent nation-states formed. The process also entailed continued interventions in the international institutions within which the new nations started to gather alongside the old imperial ones. What, then, should we make of the word’s use by heritage institutions today? This group will consider these and other, related questions.  

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