Cultural Contestation: Politics and Governance of Heritage

Heritage Changes the Social OrderHeritage Changes Politics
Regular session
11:00, Saturday 4 Jun 2016 (6 hours)
Heritage changes politicsPolitical uses of heritageUses of heritageHeritage and conflicts
Heritage practices often lead to social exclusion. As an "Authorized Heritage Discourse" (AHD) (Smith 2006) may define what is considered to be heritage, a certain set of social values can come to exclude other values. By formulating heritage policies which reproduce the existing AHD government may further such exclusion.
Every now and then AHDs are challenged, leading to what political scientists like Ross (2007; 2009) call "cultural contestations" between groups. These are surrounded by strong emotions, and can take the form of veritable "representational battles." According to various political scientists (e.g. Ross 2007; 2009), government often tries to stay out of cultural contestation, for it has little legitimacy in resolving such matters. Yet, as the available literature shows, government policy is often the root cause of such contestation. And even when it is not, government, whether it likes it or not, may find itself compelled to try and mitigate it. This necessity of government intervention is frequently fuelled by the use of heritage by marginalized groups.
In our view, political science pays ample attention to the ways in which cultural heritage leads to conflict, especially when heritage is used as a resource for identity formation. Yet, surprisingly enough, it has a tendency to downplay government's role (Ross 2007; 2009). Heritage studies often do acknowledge the role government plays when analyzing politics of heritage (Harrison 2010; Laurence 2010; Waterton 2010). Yet, many case-studies have a tendency to focus on cultural contestation foremost, without analyzing what goes on inside the state apparatus.               
In this session we focus on the role government plays in cultural contestation, trying to truly get inside the world of policy-makers. We especially welcome papers which use decision-making theories and policy analysis tools from political science and governance studies to try and understand how government deals with it, and why it prefers certain solutions to others. The papers should therefore be expressly aimed at contributing to further development of theories explaining the various roles governments play in cultural contestation.
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Assistant professor
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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