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09.00  Ethnoheritage: Heritage Theory from the American Anthropological Perspective

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9:00, Monday 6 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

The discipline of anthropology has been home to some of the most productive elaborations of cultural heritage research in the United States. In part, the concerns of heritage studies resonate so well with American anthropology because of the “four-field” strengths of housing archaeological and ethnographic researchers within the same field and departments, which in the Boasian tradition of anthropology in the US has produced a rich legacy of work combining archaeological and ethnographic methods and interests. Boasian anthropology established the American anthropological tradition, and its focus on “culture,” as distinct from the British and French social anthropology. Anthropology students specializing in heritage are increasingly cross-trained in archaeological and ethnographic methods and theory, in a return to a kind of Boasian anthropology. 

I will argue that the ethnographic turn within heritage studies internationally would be well served by looking to contemporary US work on heritage, which combines archaeological and ethnographic concerns in an approach I distinguish as “ethnoheritage.” New research from the US is addressing the “cultural” half of “cultural heritage” in ways that are capable of drawing out the public, persuasive, and “bottom-up” dimensions of cultural heritage. Ethnoheritage is particularly well-suited to address the calls within heritage studies for “bottom-up” research, which foregrounds the experiential and “lived” nature of cultural heritage. Moreover, cultural heritage is understood as a public phenomenon, not simply as a public resource but, more broadly, as operating in the public sphere, where democratic practices of persuasion come to the fore. For heritage studies from the American anthropological perspective, ethnographic methods like multi-sited ethnography are also useful, especially when extended from being “multi-sited” across spatial scales to temporal dimensions as well, when used to follow temporally-bound processes and connections.

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