This panel interrogates the science and technology of heritage conservation — particularly from the perspective of the biosciences. How does materializing different kinds of heritage — "our past" and "ourselves" — become synonymous with mobilizing and making claims about biological nature?
This panel interrogates the science and technology of heritage conservation — particularly from the perspective of the biosciences. Scholars have long investigated knowledge production, political representation, and aesthetic creation as at play in the formation of cultural, artistic, and natural heritage (Hobsbawn and Ranger 1983; Lowenthal 1999; Breglia 2009; Herzfeld 2009; Meskell 2012). Concurrently, STS scholars have used similar frameworks to understand sociocultural practices in the biosciences (de Chadarevian 2002; Jasanoff 2005; Franklin 2007; Keller 2010). This session brings these conversations together by analyzing the people, practices, knowledge, artifacts, and tools through which biology frames heritage and heritage shapes apprehensions of the biological (Hayden 2003; Abu El-Haj 2012; Caldwell 2014). Material forms of heritage, from foodstuffs to monuments to protected natural areas are being re-made as experts and citizens call upon biological practices and discourses to define heritage's most "authentic" representations. Various practitioners draw on these biological principles to shuttle objects between categories of nature and culture such that the production of value, identity, commodity, and tradition are all at stake and in the making. This panel highlights how biological knowledge itself shifts alongside these practices. We ask how diverse biological entities, such as bacteria, bodies, and ecosystems, gain and lose significance as scientific and nonscientific experts, public and private actors, consolidate how and to whom heritage matters — issues often importantly enmeshed in political processes. This panel explores how materializing different kinds of heritage — "our past" and "ourselves" — becomes synonymous with mobilizing and making claims about biological nature.