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It is an honour and a pleasure to welcome you to Montreal for the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) conference as part of the scientific program of the Canada Research Chair on Urban Heritage of UQAM’s School of Management.

The ACHS is the world’s leading group of researchers, professionals and contributors in heritage studies. The association dedicates itself to examining the social, territorial, economic and cultural issues and impact of tangible and intangible heritage and wishes to contribute to the renewal of knowledge and the improvement of heritage practices in political, academic, regional and community circles, in particular by cutting across perspectives and queries and by opening up disciplinary and national perspectives. At a time when Henri Grégoire’s (1750-1831) rallying cry “Guerre aux démolisseurs !” is on the verge of resonating across the globe, this social and scientific project is more relevant than ever.

Coming on the heels of the conferences held in Göteborg (Sweden, 2012) and Canberra (Australia, 2014), this third edition reflects the growing interest that researchers from a wide range of disciplines, professionals, decision-makers, and the general public show for heritage, and their concern with the rapid changes that our societies and expressions of identity are undergoing. In the space of a few months, the ACHS 2016 conference received over a thousand proposals for sessions, round tables, art installations, papers, and poster sessions from 65 countries spread across all 5 continents.

The 2016 conference, which is an initiative of UQAM’s Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage, in collaboration with Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, will be held mainly on the campuses of these institutions, both located in downtown Montreal.

We will be looking at the manifestations, discourses, epistemologies, policies, and issues of heritage. As laid out in the conference argument, the topics that will be discussed range from identity-making to mythologies of cultural diversity and the rethinking of heritage policies beyond the rhetoric of established heritage institutions.

To ask the question “What does heritage change?” in today’s society is also, and perhaps mainly, to reflect on the relationships between evolving individuals and communities and equally changing “heritages,” as well as on the power and responsibilities of public action in this context. Although in the global arena the State remains a key force in enacting the social and territorial narratives of the past, regions, neighborhoods, and parishes have changed. Citizens and communities have also evolved and claim heritage in order to express an unprecedented range of identities that no legislation appears able to curb, much to the displeasure of local authorities bound by illusions of inferiority or powerlessness. In addition, in the midst of frequent calls for social and citizen participation in heritage selection or enhancement, we discover that heritage is neither as pure of spirit nor as homogenous as it has appeared in past centuries. Understanding it requires integrating figures and conceptions that colonial, or simply linguistic, transpositions have obscured. In order to comprehend heritage, it is necessary to penetrate its secrets, so that everyone may one day grasp the political powers and economic values behind decisions to enhance the value of a given mountain, dance or monument.

With this in mind, our wish for this year’s conference is to directly question the disciplinary and socio-professional foundations and various assumptions that underpin practice and policy. The conference is open to all with a view to supporting continual structuring debates on the role of heritage in citizenship and political space as a living environment, as a source of identity, and as a reflection of the interrelations that human beings sustain with time and space.

Welcome to Montreal!

Hon. Serge Joyal, PC, OC, Senator

Honorary President for the ACHS 2016 “What does heritage change?” conference

Prof. Lucie K. Morisset, MRSC

Chairholder, Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage

Prof. Luc Noppen, MRSC

Director of Partnerships, Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage

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