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14.00  Customizable Governance: Context-Specific Regulation and Capacity Building in Canadian Heritage Management

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11:00, Saturday 4 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

Canada is not just a patchwork of varying heritage governance delineated by provincial and territorial boundaries, but a maelstrom of contesting and overlapping practices and processes originating from state and non-state actors. Where some contemporary scholarship seeks order out of perceived chaos, this paper will celebrate the diversity of heritage management environments and contends that modernity appears to be trending toward an era of customization and away from uniformity. 

Early questions surrounding this customization emerged from both my master’s and initial doctoral graduate research; the former examining provincial archaeological governance à la Foucault and the latter surveying Indigenous community engagement in cultural resource management. How ubiquitous are unique heritage jurisdictions across Canada? How do they come into being? How are they perceived by those interacting with/overseeing them “on-the-ground”? As my doctoral research progressed—survey, interviews and regulatory review—examples addressing these questions accumulated. From the Solutions Table in Haida Gwaii to the Debert Lands in Nova Scotia, from the municipal heritage advisory committees in Ontario to the final claims agreements of Northern Canada and many places in between, the fracturing of centralized heritage governance is ongoing. Somewhere between the decentralization of provincial devolution and the re-assertion of Indigenous territorial governance, is an emergent pseudo-cosmopolitanism that is destabilizing new public management and challenging the Canadian status quo of authorized heritage discourse. Is this just an inevitable reduction of a progressive federalist system? Or is this a resurgence of local priorities in opposition to centralized control? 

In considering these questions, formal and informal instances of Indigenous engagement in cultural resource management are brought to the fore in conversation with elements of actor-network theory. Examples highlight the multitude and variability of factors affecting heritage management in Canada. The goals and capacities of specific communities, the competencies of individual specialists, the ordinances of particular governments, these factors provide definition to existing structures of customization. Furthermore these examples hint at possibilities emerging from a more nuanced approach to contemporary heritage governance whether through devolution of authority to local governments or from a more eclectic approach at the provincial and territorial levels.

Joshua Dent


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