Heritage as social, economic and utopian resource

Kristin Kuutma (University of Tartu)
Máiréad Nic Craith (Heriot-Watt University)
Start time:
23 June, 2015 at 10:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Heritage can act as a utopian resource (in place and space) that potentially creates sociocultural and economic revenue. This Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property sponsored panel calls for reflexive investigations of (travel) destinations conceived or contested in the heritage framework.

Long abstract:

Cultural) heritage is not a given, an already-existing "something" waiting to be unveiled. Instead it is constructed and produced, as well as envisioned as an instrumental component in shaping the future. Thus heritage can act as a utopian resource (in place and space) that can serve to attract visitors and other consumers, potentially creating sociocultural as well as economic revenue. In this context, we call for reflexive investigations of various (travel) destinations conceived in the heritage framework. The heritage process is a mode of cultural production with reformative, organisational and economic significance. It has strong potential for channelling and enhancing sociocultural and/or economic resources. Heritage can be visited, experienced and consumed while cultural phenomena are employed and reconfigured in heritage sites, in museum collections, at festivals, carnivals and other social occasions. The commodification of material artefacts and the consumption of heritage "food" and other goods are also highly relevant for this panel. Heritage configures particular spaces as privileged zones of contact between the past and the present. This panel proposes to investigate heritage imagination as a resource for sociocultural practices that nurture a utopia of preservation of culture and ecosystems, or claim to endorse sustainability. Being a social construction, various interest groups employ heritage as an instrument in cultural revitalisation related to political and economic processes. In order to acknowledge the complexity of this process, we encourage a critical approach and alertness to sites of contestation, alternative rationalisations or subversion of sanctioned representations.