Critical Heritage Reading Groups

Important part of the collaboration between UT and IKOS is the multidisciplinary collaboration on the emerging field of "Critical Heritage Studies". The idea is to establish reading groups on the topic, held at the two Universities over the course of several semesters.

While the two groups meet separately in Oslo resp. Austin in intervals of their own choice, we will also hold a number of common meetings over a videoconferencing link in order to present and discuss the topics of relevance to the two groups.

The project provides collaborative development of a research field, which explicitly also includes graduate students. We also consider a panel on "critical heritage" in the Oslo and the Austin graduate student conferences, in order to facilitate the participation of a number of students from both Universities.

Through their programs recognizing Tangible and Intangible Heritage, UNESCO programs influence nations in reshaping their conceptions of national culture in order to win international recognition and thereby achieve some sort of economic, social or political gains.

Critical Heritage is an emerging interdisciplinary field that questions notions of national (or ethnic, religious or other group) "heritage." Traditional “Heritage Studies” emerged from multiple disciplinary fields, in particular public history, anthropology, archaeology, memory studies, museum & tourism studies, architecture and cultural policy, among others.  It has focused largely on tangible heritage or material culture and the ways to preserve and present these.  Critical heritage studies conceptualizes “heritage” instead as a discourse, mobilized for different social, political and economic ends.  Critical Heritage encompasses tangible and intangible, official, unofficial and contested notions of heritage attempting to understand the nature and meaning of “heritage” in different contexts.  The Association for Critical Heritage Studies held its Inaugural Conference in Gothenburg Sweden in June 2012 and attracted over 600 participants from throughout the world in diverse fields of academia, government and business.

In the Austin part of the reading group (headed by Nancy Stalker) a variety of disciplines and world areas are represented. The Austin group decided to meet twice each semester. Three key areas within Critical Heritage emerged as topics for the first meetings: Dark Tourism, Culinary Intangible Heritage, Developments in Museum Studies. For each meeting, one or two interested members will recommend books and/or articles. Heather Hindman and Kirsten Cather will take the lead on Dark Tourism. The group is planning to invite speakers (such as the authors of books), subsidize related conference papers, and visit local Heritage sites.

The Oslo part of this reading group (headed by Ute Huesken) is a small interdisciplinary group. The Oslo group first read key chapters of Laurajane Smith's (contested) 2006 book "Usages of Heritage", proceeded to Kirshenblatt/Giblett, and in the fall 2013 will concentrate on specific case studies, presented by members of the group.

Everyone interested is very welcome to join us!

Reading Lists