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Reflection, Selection, Deflection: Rhetoric in the Global Pursuit of Heritage

Changes in Heritage (New Manifestations)Notions of HeritageTourism
Changes in heritageNew manifestations of heritageNotions of heritage
Regular session
9:00, Dimanche 5 Juin 2016 (3 heures 30 minutes)
The constructed and political nature of heritage claims is now acknowledged across the disciplines, and increasingly even among heritage professionals. But already Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, in their seminal The invention of tradition, had proclaimed that “all invented traditions, so far as possible, use history as a legitimator of action and cement of group cohesion” (1983:12). So rather than simply diagnosing heritage as being constructed, as such (ab-)use of history, their challenge rests in the "how" rather than in the "that": how are actions legitimized by reference to the past, and how is group cohesion sustained by heritage claims? How do we decide what is worthy of conservation, and how do we frame our decisions? One answer is rhetoric, in the sense of persuasive interaction, or, in Francis Bacon’s words, “applying reason to the imagination for the better moving of the will.”
The rhetorician Kenneth Burke has coined the trifecta of “reflection, selection, and deflection” as terministic screens that govern our words (1969:59). These three processes are equally active in the dynamics of heritage: out of the boundless reservoir of an imaginable past, certain items are selected to be reflections (or: representations) of a bounded identity, but are at the same time deflections from other historical items that are not made to matter (or: made not to matter) in given heritage discourses. Thus, “reflection, selection, deflection” are the guiding notions for the discussions in this session as they embody the intentionality, the creativity, and the strategy that drive heritage efforts, and point to the critical role of power.
Increasingly, this relation between heritage and rhetoric is addressed by academic work (Lafrenz Samuels and Rico forthc.), and a broad “discursive turn” has been diagnosed (Harrison 2013:95-113, see esp. Smith 2006). Still, there has been no systematic attempt to articulate the position that rhetoric is not just a contingent aspect of heritage, but that there is no pursuit of heritage without persuasive and figurative interaction. There is no authenticity that has not come about through persuasive processes of authentication. What, then, is the role of rhetoric in the performance of the fundamental practices of heritage—categorizing, curating, conserving, and communicating (Harrison)?
Papers are invited on any arena in which reflection, selection and deflection take place, such as heritage tourism, public debates or political agendas. Further fitting topics include the role of metaphors and other tropes, persuasive genres such as certification and authentication practices, and specific idioms of heritage such as AHD.
Universität Konstanz
Post-doctoral researcher

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