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How do Rights Change Heritage?

Heritage Changes Rights
Heritage changes rightsJustice and heritageHeritage and the lawRight to heritage
Regular session
9:00, Lundi 6 Juin 2016 (6 heures)
Questions about the repatriation of cultural property, issues of access and exclusion in the World Heritage system, intangible heritage practices in conflict with human rights norms, or the ways in which the international human rights regime is interpreted as a form of cultural heritage itself: rights are now considered relevant in a broad variety of heritage situations.
This is reflected in the incorporation of references to human rights in a series of key international heritage-related conventions, including the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). Moreover, the advisory bodies to the World Heritage Convention are undertaking efforts to improve the understanding of the rights dimension in World Heritage work and a wider set of debates about the role of rights in heritage practice is taking place among scholars, as witnessed by a growing amount of academic publications on the topic. These debates emerged in the context of the rise of the human rights discourse globally as well as an increased concern in the heritage sector with the ethical implications of its work.
Despite this increased interest in the links between heritage and rights, it remains a highly contested area. Views vary with regard to whether the link is useful or harmful, effective or inhibiting. This is partly due to the diverse cultural contexts in which this relationship is considered. Moreover, both rights and heritage can be understood in widely different ways. For example, there are different consequences when rights are interpreted from a strictly legal perspective or when the discursive capacity to initiate debates about ideas of justice is foregrounded. 
In the context of this contestation, critical reflection is necessary on the appropriateness of the adoption of a global or universal framework to address issues of social justice in culturally diverse situations. This session aims to bring together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds to critically discuss the extent to which engagement with "rights" (whether in a legal or more discursive sense) could provide a means to address issues of social justice in heritage contexts, contributes to existing tensions or perhaps does not make much difference. Contributors are encouraged to consider enabling conditions for respecting rights in heritage contexts, the pitfalls or limitations of the link between heritage and rights, and how rights are used in heritage situations "on the ground."
With the overarching question—How do rights change heritage?—the session contributes to the broader theme of the conference by considering the following: when rights are linked to heritage, what does heritage change?
Deakin University
PhD Candidate

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