Uses of Heritage Part III

Uses of Heritage Part 3: Responses to Authorized Heritage

Chapter 6: Labour Heritage

  • This chapter analyses the results of an in-depth qualitative questionnaire durvey of 273 visitors to three industrial era social history museums…
  • … What the survey reveals is that the criticism that museums like these offer sanitized titillation or are sops to deindustrialization cannot be sustained. Rather, visitors criticallky and actively utilize these places as cultural and social tools in remembering and memory making that underwrite a self-conscious sense of class and regional identity.

Chapter 7: The Slate Wiped Clean?

  • This chapter examines how a community in Northern England is consciously using cultural heritage to engender a sense of place.
  • The AHD cannot readily recognize that Castleford has any ‘heritage’ left, as memory alone is untrustworthy without the material evidence.
    • [Can the new structure leave empty spaces within the existing material fabric and that is the evidence (lack of material) that there is heritage?]
  • However, many residents of Castleford who, in a range of ways, are self-consciously creating a new heritage and range of memories linked to existing memory and experience, do not accept this. This chapter examines the ways in which heritage is understood and actively used in Castleford to redefine community identity and cohesion.
    • [Recall the work at Dalmarnock]
  • … The chapter demonstrates that this exclusion is contested and subverted at community levels. Dominant ideas about the heritage values of ‘authentic material culture’ and the ‘built environment’ are being rewritten and redefined within a cultural process that privileges the performativity of ‘doing’ and ‘being’, rather than the possession of, or association with, material objects. This is not to say that the physicality of place and object are abandoned as important elements in the heritage process, but rather they are de-privileged, and reassigned supporting roles in a process that is fundamentally about providing and creating opportunities for acts of remembering and commemoration, and above all social networking.
  • This process is not based on backward-looking reactionary nostalgia or a unified or consensual view of the past, it is rather about utilizing collective remembering to foster community cultural and economic growth and to recognize and celebrate diversity and change.
  • … Any assertion of a sense of heritage in Castleford must be understood as dissonant in two ways.
  • Firstly, it is dissonant because it sits outside of the AHD, while also asserting a sense of community identity and cohesion that is challenging the community’s isolation and marginalization in the wider historical and cultural narratives of England. Secondly, it is also a heritage associated with trauma and community distress.
    • [Is this similar to the situation in urban villages?]
  • Chapter 6 revealed the importance of remembering and commemoration as fundamental to the cultural process of heritage, and this chapter reinforces those observations, but goes on to demonstrate the social and cultural work that this process does at community level. The argument pursued in this chapter is that heritage is something that is actively made in the present in response to cultural, social and economic needs and aspirations. It is a process of doing in which heritage is made and remade through the creation of memories and experiences, and thus heritage in Castleford is ultimately about maintaining and re/creating interpersonal relations that are knitted together to foster community identity.
    • [In writing thesis – talk about the theory and then talk about the site, and then the design intervention]
  • The place is deindustrialised
  • With many of the industrial building sof Castleford removed, a common observation is that the ‘heritage of Castleford is dead’.
  • Certainly, the privileging of the grand, aesthetically pleasing nad monumental in the AHD underlines and frames observations that ‘Castleford has no heritage’. This echoes an observation by Denis Byrne (2001:7; 2003) that a dominant assumption in the heritage sector is that buildings are self-classifying, and that their fabric will simply proclaim identity and significance.
  • Local residents in Castleford are well aware of the negative image of their town and see this as an impediment to economic investment.
  • It is useful to note here that there is a startling lack of reactionary nostalgia or sentimentality in this cultural process.
  • Crouch and Parker (2003:396) note that in doing memories are recalled, and this sense of remembering underlies much of what is done with and understood about the nature of heritage in Castleford.
    • [But that being said, the heritage in Castleford is focused on the intangible because there is not heritage buildings left on the site. The community is forced to create something else, some other form where memory could be carried forward]
  • The Castleford Festival

Chapter 8: The Issue is Control

  • This chapter examines the criticism levelled at heritage practitioners by Indigenous peoples in order to explore more fully the consequences that heritage discourses have. The focus of the chapter is the adversarial nature of Indigenous criticism of the AHD, which illustrates the dissonant nature of heritage, but also the political work that heritage discourses do within identity politics.
  • Central to the tensions between Indigenous peoples and heritage practitioners is the issue of control – who should control how heritage is defined and understood. This is not an abstract issue, as who controls the discourse also controls an important resource of political power. Further, the issues raised in this chapter, although discussed in terms of Indigenous heritage, are equally relevant to other subaltern expressions of heritage, and aim to illustrate that the dissonant aspects of any definition of heritage are not only integral to an understand and theorization of heritage, but in understanding the political work ‘heritage’ does.
  • [When single buildings are isolated in new developments, or single buildings are rebuilt – the identity of the place is seemingly captured within the materiality of boundaries of single buildings. The bigger economic and cultural heritage that existed within the entire urban village, including the history of urban migrants within the urban villages are disregarded.]
  • … I mean control over the meanings and values given to the past and control, ultimately, over the cultural tools important in memory and identity work – items or acts of heritage.
  • Both tangible and intangible heritage serve as resources of power in this process of surveillance as they become symbolic of identity claims. They are also important ‘theatres of memory’ where the processes of heritage are made meaningful and given expression.

Cultural Differences and Discursive Barriers

  • Chapter 2 discussed how the political and dissonant struggles in which heritage issues and processes play a apart are obscured by the nature of the AHD and its emphasis on the aesthetic, historical and scientific values of heritage. However, these issues can also be further obscured, as noted above, in the way certain dissonant claims and conflicts are characterized as issues of ‘ownership’ or as ‘belief’ against ‘reason’.
  • In this section, I want to examine how Indigenous conflicts over heritage are obfuscated in yet another way.
  • This obfuscation occurs when the dissonant interest or discourse has fundamentally different ways of understanding and defining the nature and meaning of ‘heritage’. The cultural differences between Indigenous and Western perceptions are significant in both escalating and complicating debate and conflict, but also in obfuscating the political nature of heritage.
  • … The assumption by many Western experts of ‘the past’ that Indigenous peoples are not capable of preserving or understanding their own past…
  • [The way that I communicate the legitimacy of my project has been that these villages are intrinsically different from the city and they have 600 years of history.]
  • This is because in many Western cultures it is often necessary to trace some form of direct biological link to a population or individual to show kinship, and thus be able to claim their remains or associated material culture as part of your own heritage. In some, but not all, Indigenous cultures, identifying direct biological linkages may be irrelevant, and entirely different criteria are used for identifying ancestral/descendent links not only to human remains, but also to land and to cultural places and items of heritage value. As Deloria notes, it is traditions and not genetics that may hold communities together (cited in Gulliford 2000:11).
  • Another issue that heritage practitioners must also deal with is the idea that heritage is something that must be actively conserved, and that items left in the landscape and apparently ‘abandoned’ must come under the stewardship and care of heritage professionals. Decay and erosion must be arrested in the Western conservation ethic – but this is not always considered appropriate in Indigenous cultures.
    • [But in a culture where economic competition is one of the most important part of the culture, and when at an international stage, these cultures are to produce a set of materially present heritage artefacts – then it becomes important to follow the rules of the heritage conservators in the Western tradition, in order to be able to stand on the same stage.]
    • [Is there a national sentiment? Refer to the essay by Tim Winter about the political nature of cultural preservation]
  • The discursive barriers between these groups have been a significant hurdle in debates – a situation that many authors, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, stress can only be constructively dealt with if communication is undertaken on both sides from the basis of relationships of trust and with critical awareness and honesty.
  • [But in terms of villages and their developments, the sense of salvation exists within the mindset of the people from the villages – these are people who wants to be saved, by experts. This is a fundamental difference with urban villages, where villagers have a bargaining chip and are protective of their power. Where does their sense of power come from? If they seek a sense of power, bargained from the government (in terms of recognising their heritage buildings) they are also submitting to the government in a way that is unknown to them? Do they really understand this? How are they responding to this situation?]
  • [The use of the term ‘immovable cultural relic’ lends a very physical element to the heritage – that these are physically left in stone and not to be physically moved or removed]
  • [The sense of identity that villagers are seeking – but without the economic stability, they are looking really for a resource where they can tap on. And heritage buildings is, to them, not a sense of identity but a resource. Is it fair to say that?]

Controlling Heritage

  • … The ability to control heritage plays at least three interlinked and important roles. THe first is to define community identity; the second is to create and recreate new political identities form which to assert and negotiate with governments the legitimacy of a range of cultural and civil rights; and the third is to demonstrate control over a political resource.
  • [These are all assuming that the heritage came from the community from the roots up. But if the legitimacy of heritage is self-referential and a result of an intervention from ‘experts’, what stop experts from coming in to identify a community and create that identity?]
    • [How do you start that self-referential process of legitimatization?]