- Grace Kim (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) email
- Caterina Scaramelli (Amherst College) email
- Cristina Grasseni (Utrecht University) email
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.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.
Bottling climate change. Global climate at the root of the authentic upland wine in the Pyrenees.
In the Catalan High Pyrenees, global climate becomes legible through policies promoting upland viticulture. Marketing of local heritage resort to global climate to justify the return to wine-making in the region. Climate change and tradition mix together in the making of heritage wine.
In the Catalan High Pyrenees, experimentation with new forms of patrimonialization are taking place. By the end of the 20th century, the idea of Pyrenean rural people's 'traditional' customs fed the urbanites' taste for 'heritage", as in the mystified and idyllic epiphenomenon of the authentic life they sought. In this paper, I will describe the shifts happening in the southernmost district of the Catalan High Pyrenees, the Pallars Jussà. Wine is becoming increasingly important for the regional economy. Though vineyards disappeared at the hand of the Phylloxera parasite more than one hundred years ago, they were subsequently reintroduced over the last decades as a means to a profitable heritage product. Now we are seeing a new phase in which geological quality and weather features are being deployed in the discourse surrounding their cultivation. Under the banner of climate change, wine production frontier is being pushed above sea level. While heritage labels provide farmers with certification of 'terroir' under the scrutiny of the EU, science of global climate places terroir within a hierarchy of favourable geographies and temporality linked to the prospective conservation of wine-making itself. Promotion of upland wine-making by district state officials turns global climate concerns into the local ecosystem's heritage forte, offering geology courses and experimental cellar techniques to the farmers as a way to define their identity in the face of future challenges around environmental degradation. In Pallars Jussà, global climatic statements convey the means for the re-establishment of the "authentic" traditional rural past.
Ground Truth: Remote Sensing and the Craft of Heritage in Iraq's Marshes
By following the labors of Iraqi scientists to make the marshes a national park and World Heritage site, this paper explores how the violence of the Iraq war was realized each day in the lab work and fieldwork of Iraqi biologists, where scientists regularly negotiated both moral and mortal distress.
To produce heritage in post-Ba'ath, occupied Iraq, biology was critical. Iraqi exiles, the UN, and US sought to restore and conserve Iraq's wetlands—drained by Saddam Hussein—as the country's first national park and a designated World Heritage cultural landscape. There was one problem: given the scope of violence in Iraq, conducting biological fieldwork in the wetlands was almost impossible. Based on more than two years of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper examines how Iraqi marsh conservationists learned to craft marsh heritage by subjugating their personal research dilemmas and practical concerns for safety, facing challenges to nurture ecological life while working in an institutional framework that seemed to care comparatively little for human life. UN experts adapted remote sensing technologies to the context of war; biological discriminations would be made by studying pixels not plants. Iraqi remote sensing scientists confronted project limitations—faulty data, lack of political will inside the country, inadequate donor funding, and, most of all, the "security situation," which, as employees of an organization associated inside Iraq with the occupation, they confronted on a daily basis. By following the labors of Iraqi scientists to make the marshes a national park and World Heritage site, this paper explores how the violence of the Iraq war was realized each day in the lab work and fieldwork of Iraqi biologists, where scientists regularly negotiated both moral and mortal distress.
The Biorestoration of Stone Heritage: Microbiology and Authenticity in Italy
In the laboratory, Italian microbiologists today work to use bacteria to “restore” heritage artifacts, making the sociocultural life of heritage legible and tractable to the natural sciences. How are these microbiologists emerging as the new caretakers of “our past?"
Microbiologists today are applying bacteria to deteriorating artifacts of cultural heritage in order to restore them to their "original" states. I focus on a laboratory in Milan, Italy, where microbes—more widely known as the cause of heritage's degradation—are being transformed into useful biotechnologies that can repair the cracking and darkening surfaces of Italian stone walls and monuments. Invoking the ways microbes can help humans in food production, health promotion, and environmental remediation, these scientists see microbes as "natural," "green," and "sustainable" resources that can also aid humans to protect the tangible legacies of their culture and pass heritage on to future generations. Specifically, these microbiologists harness the metabolic activities of particular kinds of bacteria in order to clean stone heritage of undesirable debris. They also use the minerals that some microbes precipitate in order to consolidate stones and fight against heritage's material disintegration. Analyzing this work, I show not only how heritage is made to shape the value of microbes. Heritage is simultaneously made legible and tractable to the natural sciences such that microbiological techniques and principles constitute the material production of heritage's authenticity. In the laboratory, microbial life becomes entangled with the sociocultural life of heritage, and microbiologists emerge as the new caretakers of "our past."
This track is closed to new paper proposals.