Mobilizing Heritage: Anthropological Practice and Transnational Prospects

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In Mobilizing Heritage: Anthropological Practice and Transnational Prospects Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels expands on her previous work exploring the potential for heritage to mobilize social change (2015) and contributes to broader discussions around how heritage functions as a metacultural tool – a mirror that society uses to understand itself as it develops and transforms. In contrast to the extensive body of literature in which heritage is monopolized by the nation state, this text focuses on its less-explored transnational instantiations.

Arjun Appadurai (1981), building on previous work by Cohen and Comaroff (1976) exploring the management of meaning, recognized the culturally variable social norms that govern debates of the past. In acknowledging that these norms allow for division and debate and that concessions to change are built in, Appadurai prompted decades of discussion around “the inherent debatability of the past in the present” (1981, 218) and the possibilities for social action that this presents.

Mobilizing Heritage extends these debates. The introduction outlines the book's four aims: to review the anthropological foundations of heritage studies, to provide an updated discussion of the changing forms and functions of cultural heritage practice across borders, to assess the utility of anthropology for accessing these new areas of activity and to act a theoretical text for anthropological approaches to analyzing cultural heritage. The book is structured into eight further chapters. Chapters two and three provide the in-depth discussion of the anthropological roots of the field of heritage studies. Chapter four explains the rise of heritage development within large multilateral development banks and then charts its adoption by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), consulting firms and transnational advocacy networks (TANs). Nonspecialists seeking to learn primarily about the role heritage plays in practice in addressing major twenty first century global challenges might forego the earlier genealogical chapters and use chapter four as an alternative entry point. Subsequent sections explore the relationships between heritage and climate change (chapter five), democratic practice (chapter six), global justice (chapter seven) and heritage rights (chapter eight).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-78
Number of pages3
JournalHeritage & Society
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Heritage
  • Ethnoheritage
  • Ethnography
  • Cultural Heritage
  • Anthropology

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