ASA15: Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms

Anthropology and heritage studies
Location Room 12
Date and Start Time 14 April, 2015 at 09:15
Sessions 2


  • Stephanie Anna Loddo (EHESS) email

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Chair Ali Mozaffari (Curtin University)

Short Abstract

This panel explores the promises and challenges of developing interdisciplinarity, research innovations and new roles and engagements in the field of heritage studies.

Long Abstract

As a discipline that has traditionally been founded on concepts of culture and identity, anthropology has long been engaged in doing ethnography in heritage sites and on cultural objects and their relations with issues such as memory, belonging, identity, and indigenous knowledge. Over the past decades, heritage has increasingly drawn the attention of scholars from across various disciplines in a context of intensification and diversification of heritage practices both by state and non-state actors. The aim of this panel is to bring together scholars from various disciplines and professional backgrounds including anthropology, archaeology, cultural studies, museum studies and curatorship in order to foster interdisciplinary discussion and explore the shifting boundaries of anthropology and heritage studies. What forms can collaboration take across disciplines and between scholars and practitioners? How do scholars and especially anthropologists engage creatively with interdisciplinarity and professional practice for example in heritage management, museum practices and policy-making? How do innovative collaborations in and outside academia and the use of new technologies for heritage management impact on research methodologies and theorisation? What is the impact of our research on publics, indigenous perceptions and agency, institutional management of heritage and policies? How do we situate ourselves within these fields of practices and power? Should we develop new roles and engagements and how can we go about it?

We invite researchers to submit contributions that critically address these questions or any related issue dealing with interdisciplinarity, research innovations and new roles and engagements in the field of heritage studies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Memoria ladina: participative approaches to community-based conceptions of heritage in the Dolomites

Author: Emanuel Valentin (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano)  email

Short Abstract

In 2009, UNESCO inscribed the Dolomites on its World Natural Heritage List without mentioning the Ladin minority living in these mountain landscapes. As an anthropologist of Ladin descent I am facing these shortcomings in a project which combines "indigenous" and "collaborative" anthropology.

Long Abstract

In 2009, nine geomorphological sites of the Dolomites have been inscribed on UNESCO's World Natural Heritage List (WNHL), which had a big impact on the attractiveness of these sites not only for research but also for tourism. But this inscription does not mention at all that the Dolomites are constituted by mountain landscapes which are predominantly inhabited by the Ladins, a Rhaeto-roman speaking minority in Northern Italy, even if it was the high degree of isolation given by the Dolomitic mountain environment which determined the survival of these communities as linguistic enclaves in the transitional zone between the Italian and German speaking areas. On the contrary, Ladin communities and their emic perspectives have been apparently ignored during this heritagization process.

As an anthropologist of Ladin descent, I am currently facing these shortcomings in a research project which combines "indigenous" and "collaborative" anthropology. Using a participative and community-based approach, I want to shed light on the existing tension between an elitist top-down and a popular bottom-up definition of "heritage". The development of a community-based sustainable heritage management which should first of all be defined by the population and which is shared between civil society and public institutions is at the centre of the project. In this paper, I will present my ongoing research and give some first insights into the applied methodology constituted by "Memoryvoice", a term I have coined after the "Photovoice" method, and the creation of a "Participative Digital Archive".

Heritage of a 'heathen past': source communities and colonial collections

Author: Vibha Joshi (Tuebingen University/University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

Documenting the response of a local community to being presented with early research photographs of their older textiles/cloth , the paper explores the notion of 'lost cultural heritage', the dialectics of Christian conversion and the heritage of a 'heathen past'.

Long Abstract

During the colonial period, Naga peoples of present North East India received intensive attention. Six detailed monographs were published by British officers cum amateur anthropologists between 1921-1935 using the guidelines in 'Notes and Queries' prepared by the RAI. In addition many artefacts were collected from different Naga communities for western ethnographic museums, especially in the UK and Europe. Over the past seven decades, most Naga have converted to Christianity. During Christian revivals , cultural accessories, especially cloth and jewelry associated with the ancestral animistic religion, were destroyed or discarded. Many cloths and accessories from the so called 'heathen past' have now become part of a treasured cultural history for the Naga. Giving an example of the impact on a Naga community of research photographs of older textiles/cloth which were taken to the field , the paper explores the notion of 'lost cultural heritage', the dialectics of Christian conversion and the heritage of a 'heathen past'. The paper asks what kind of dialogue museums and anthropologists can engage in with the source /indigenous community, and what issues such collaboration may raise.

Archaeological ethnographies: analysing the relations between societies and archaeological heritage in Tulum

Author: Yael Dansac (EHESS École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)  email

Short Abstract

The current sociocultural and economic dynamics surrounding archaeological sites require new methods of analysis, which engage anthropologists and archaeologists around the world. As a result, archaeological ethnography has developed as an interdisciplinary field that studies these subjects.

Long Abstract

In anthropological literature, the field of archaeological ethnography is defined as a transdisciplinary area of knowledge that encourages multiple engagements and critiques centred on material culture, society and temporality.

In our presentation archaeological ethnography is used as a methodological device enabling the study of the relations that society establishes with archaeological objects. The meanings given to archaeological heritage are diverse and unstable, and shaped by chronological and spatial contexts. We argue that archaeological heritage is not a neutral phenomenon. Its use as a national and regional symbol; its promotion as a touristic resource and as a sacred place by ethnic groups, present its multiple and sometimes contradictory meanings.

The archaeological site of Tulum exemplifies the kind of inferences that archaeological ethnography provides for the understanding of the cultural, economic and social relations that contemporary societies establish with ancient objects and spaces.

Tulum is notorious for its mayan ruins located next to the beach, in south Mexico. It lies about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Cancun, in the world-renowned tourist region known as the Riviera Maya, and was built by the Mayas in 1200 BC.

Currently, Tulum is rooted in a universe of "Mayanness" in which the veiled presence of a local indigenous population contrasts with the promotion of commercial products that highlight the "Maya" as an endemic feature. We suggest that in the heterotopic space of the Riviera Maya, Tulum is a contested space that has different meanings to several local groups.

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Weaving magical heritage in the Museum of Witchcraft: locating small museums in heritage studies and anthropology

Author: Helen Cornish (Goldsmiths College, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

Small private ‘micro-museums’, highly popular tourist attractions run by enthusiastic owner-curators, are often invisible in heritage debates. The Museum of Witchcraft provides a valuable example of the ways in which these sites provide key opportunities for negotiating and representing heritage.

Long Abstract

Small, privately owned, museums are often highly popular attractions, much loved by visitors, keenly guarded by owner-curators, but lack visibility in heritage and academic discussions. Small private collections are often marginalised by academic interests, excluded by funding bodies and ineligible for charitable status, largely perceived as amateur projects outside of curatorial expertise. This ignores the rich seam found by visitors, owners, and volunteers in the potential for imagining heritage engaged through such passionate endeavours.

The Museum of Witchcraft, on the north Cornish coast, provides a vivid, and perhaps literal, example of the potential of small museums to enchant visitors, and attracts high numbers of annual visitors. Some of these are contemporary British Witches or Occultists who see the museum as a heritage for magical practitioners: for showing, sharing and explaining the history and practices of their religious craft. The museum relies on established ideas of Cornwall as a site of ancient, pre-Christian paganism to situate its magical expertise and knowledge. It also contributes to maintaining these notions, through its collection and narratives, as well as the expansion of magical intrigue into the surrounding landscape. This paper offers an ethnographic perspective on 'micro museums' as a key factor in the array of opportunities for negotiating heritage outside dominant institutions.

Heritage and social participation

Authors: Guadalupe Jiménez-Esquinas (Spanish Research Council (CSIC))  email
Cristina Sanchez-Carretero (CSIC)  email
Jose Antonio Cortes Vazquez (CSIC (Spain))  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on participatory initiatives and techniques in heritage policies in Spain. Paying attention to the challenges of establishing bridges with both critical theories and civil society movements, we seek alternative and empirically informed models of heritage governance and management.

Long Abstract

Participation in heritage governance and management is gathering momentum. New stakeholders and rights-holders, organised in civil society movements and associations, are gaining access to decision-making in heritage policies. New regulations, such as those adopted by UNESCO on intangible cultural heritage, are compelling institutions to implement participatory methodologies. These changes echo a growing concern about the impact of heritage policies and initiatives, particularly the social divisions and conflicts that they generate. The troublesome character of these policies spans many different fields, including both natural and cultural heritage initiatives.

We examine how this new phenomenon of participatory techniques and experiences is unfolding in many different geographies and around multiple subject themes. We will illustrate this examination with different examples from Spain. The timing of this research is particularly good due to the deepening of the representational crisis that we have recently witnessed both within academia and society at large. As such, we approach this project as an opportunity to test participatory practices and initiatives against both critical theories and political initiatives that rethink the role, pitfalls and opportunities of public participation. Our goal is to identify the challenges of establishing bridges between public policy and civil society movements and to point the way towards an empirical rethinking of participatory models of heritage governance and management.

Tobacco memories in Bristol

Author: Alex Gapud (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

Bristol has historically been built by empire, and in particular, the tobacco industry. Yet memory of this prominent past is rather ambiguous, if not largely invisible. This paper describes a joint project with a citizens' group interested in heritage to understand the city's memory of tobacco.

Long Abstract

This paper describes an ongoing collaborative research project in Bristol, England between myself and the Bristol Civic Society, a non-profit citizens' group with a concern for among other topics, heritage.

Along with other imperial industries, tobacco has historically played a fundamental role in Bristol's growth. Indeed, one of the most prominent landmarks in the city is the Wills Memorial Building, the flagship building of the University of Bristol, named after Henry Overton Wills III, the chairman of Wills Tobacco (now Imperial Tobacco) and first chancellor of the University of Bristol. Today, Bristol-based Imperial is both Bristol's most valuable company and the world's fourth largest tobacco firm.

Tobacco, in concert with imperial industries in sugar, chocolate, and the slave trade, have played an immeasurable role in the building and development of Bristol.

Yet my informants have noted that in some regards, the tobacco industry feel that they have 'been airbrushed' out of the city's memory, as attitudes over the past few decades about the health concerns of tobacco have created ambiguity about this once prominent industry, and as tobacco production and manufacturing in the city has ceased twenty years ago.

This paper seeks to describe an ongoing inquiry about the processes by which memory of tobacco's role in Bristol has been negotiated and handled publicly, the role of organisations like the BCS in heritage and memory, and how the tobacco industry has paradoxically become rather invisible, despite its material and historical prominence in Bristol.

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How to express the rhythm of the walk and the diversity of experiences? Restitution and heritage: with the shepherds in northern Pakistan

Author: Thibault Fontanari (Catholic University of Louvain)  email

Short Abstract

This communication discusses the necessity for the researcher to create a database which could be used by the shepherds in order to continuously update the transformations of their mountain paths which include prayer and remembrance places.

Long Abstract

As the inhabitants of a village in Northern Pakistan see it, praying is intimately related to their walk on the mountain paths towards the pastures. At the time of their construction these paths are named after deceased or living persons and become thereby prayer and remembrance places. Thereafter these places are experienced and actualized through the rhythm of the shepherds' walk.

These shepherds are organized into a village committee that requires from the researchers working in the village that they share their work and scanned data (pictures, videos, songs, interviews) with the villagers via the committee. This request gives an original answer to a contemporary question in anthropology: how to take into account in our study the diversity, the complexity and the transformations of social life? This communication aims to discuss the interactions between the researcher and the villagers from 2011 onwards and concludes on the necessity to create a database which could be used by the shepherds and in which they could continuously integrate the transformations of their landscape and the multiple experiences they live. As an alternative to a paper report, this shared tool would be an answer to the wish of the shepherds to save their information about the prayer and remembrance places.

The formation of contemporary heritage movements in Iran

Author: Ali Mozaffari (Curtin University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the formation of heritage activism in contemporary Iran. The paper draws on the growing field data which suggests the presence of a nascent form of heritage movement in the country. Understanding this movement requires a new outlook thus far under-explored in heritage theories.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the emerging activism in the field of heritage in Iran. There is a strong institutional bond between sanctioned interpretations of heritage and state institutions as through those interpretations a sanctioned collective identity and culture are represented, propagated and proliferated. However, the official strand is but one interpretation of cultural heritage. Since the 1990s, there has been a slowly-emerging activism in the field of heritage. Much of this activism is in the form of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which are at once regulated and yet sustain a critical engagement with the state heritage apparatuses. Heritage activists share some frames of reference with the state, including ideas of nation-state and territorial integrity. These activists produce critical and alternative interpretations of heritage. They have actively promoted their goals and have at times engaged in controversies surrounding heritage. Focussing on data emerging from recent fieldwork, this paper attempts to conceptualise the workings of heritage activism.

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.