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What Does the Heritage Citizens Movement Change?

Heritage Changes the Social OrderCitizenshipUrban HeritageActivists and Experts
Heritage changes peopleActivist vs expertHeritage-makers
Regular session
11:00, Saturday 4 Jun 2016 (6 hours)
There is no doubt that the involvement of civil society is a key element in the history of heritage. Working upstream, in line with or against the tide of state recognition, enlightened amateurs or ordinary citizens have invested time and energy in the safeguarding and enhancement of a good, a place or a practice, judged, from their point of view, as irreplaceable or remarkable. It is easy for each country or each region to find an example of a precursor, working alone or in a group, who has managed to preserve one treasure or another. Similarly, a heroic battle, whether lost or won, has often marked the local consciousness and has henceforth been referred to as the highlight of a new era or a different way of understanding heritage. The citizens movement has also helped to engage a wider audience in the heritage project. Recognition is no longer the purview of a small group of specialists; with the values-based approach, the opinion of a wider audience is eagerly sought; public consultations have broadened the debate on the local and media scenes; and heritage communities demonstrate that it is possible to give meaning and a different life to heritage. In short, the state no longer has the monopoly on heritage discourse, even if the powers conferred by national laws mean that it is still a major player.
What does the Citizens’ Heritage Movement change? In view of what has been mentioned above, the answer may seem easy. Yet on the ground, the same recriminations are being tirelessly expressed. Stakeholders still summon the troops to new battles and highlight the many pitfalls to safeguarding. Tinkering, a need for urgent action, and/or volunteer fatigue doubtlessly undermine many projects. Will the movement end up running out of gas? Is it the only safeguard against indifference? If it has enabled great things and raised the awareness of a wider audience, can it also be looked at critically? Are there different trends within the movement? Can we compare the work of scholarly associations with the various friends of heritage? Behind the legitimate objectives, can there be other interests? Has the professionalization of certain groups transformed the civic roots of heritage activism? The proposed session intends, from a historic or contemporary perspective, to invoke various real-world experiences in order to overcome naive optimism about citizen involvement and explore some possible ways to understand a phenomenon which, despite its essential nature, remains little studied.
We understand Citizens’ Heritage Movement in a very large extent which could include an individual trying to alert his neighbourhood to a more organized group with regular members and paid staff. In between, the movement could take a large variety of expressions. Its action is also plural reaching from activism of every sort to public education and technical assistance, and from management for the local community to touristic enhancement.
As part of the session, we invite researchers to provide a critical reflection on the proposed general theme: “What does the Citizens’ Heritage Movement change?” They could refer to studies in order to document or broaden the issue of citizen involvement, focusing more specifically on the following aspects:
• The historical or contemporary role of the citizens movement;
• The response and behaviour of authorities toward citizen requests;
• The evaluation of actions taken and their sustainability;
• The pitfalls and challenges of the citizens movement;
• The future of the citizens movement.
Beyond the avenues mentioned, this call for contributions aims to better understand and define the citizens movement by way of a critical approach. Any other suggestion will be considered with great attention.

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