Heritage in Motion. People, Things and Materials in New Places

PhD Course, Mapungupwe National Park, South Africa November 12-17 2018

Dialogues with the Past. The Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology.

Mobility, migration, movement. These are key terms within a range of disciplines; in anthropology, archaeology and various heritage and museum studies. It is long recognised that people, materials and things on the move are strong transformative agents, and more recent theorising recognises that the dense webs and connections between them are transformative too. Taking a cue from the recent ‘mobilities turn’ more broadly in the social sciences, the course will engage with various ontologies of mobility and movement. At the heart of the renewed mobility discourse is the notion that mobility is neither aberrant nor restricted to the physical movement of people. Rather, mobility is seen as an always ongoing and naturalised process that frames and shapes sociality. While keeping in mind that more traditional mobility research continue to regard human movement as the primary purview, the course attendants will be challenged to also explore the recognition that objects, ideas and knowledge are also part of mobile ontologies.

Such rethinking of mobility acknowledges the intimate connections between the human condition and the many nonhuman forces and agencies at play, thus recognising the multi-layered motions that take place in everyday lives. People arriving in new places engage in new social environs, new land-, sea- or cityscapes, new dwellings, new things and new materials. Thus, knowledge about the world and one’s world-views, face the challenge of relating to another world than the previously known, an altered material world.

Consequently, this way of thinking knowledge as challenged and transformed through mobility suggests a re-thinking of the concept of heritage. In this perspective, heritage is no longer a property, something to be held or preserved, but something that is constantly reworked in new relations and environs. In fact, we may think of heritage in motion as a way of exploring and knowing the world rather than as an objectified belonging. Heritage in motion challenges one to reflect, re-think and innovate. And, in turn, to think of heritage as constantly in motion, potentially challenges us to reconsider the ways in which we define and approach well-established terms across a range of disciplines; art, technology, and memory. Across disciplines, for researchers, museum curators and heritage practitioners, it becomes key to understand these transformative activities. Whether engaged in studies of art, technology, museum collections and exhibitions, or provenance studies of materials or objects, or whether studying deep time, the more recent past or the present, heritage in motion is set in complex, multi-layered and always-ongoing social processes.

Aim of the Course

This PhD-course aims to explore notions of heritage in the light of movement of people, objects, and knowledge. The concept of heritage tends to tie together a specific group with a locality and a shared body of material and immaterial heritage. But, how may we understand and study heritage if our premise is not based on heritage as a “natural” relation between people, land and materials, but rather on mobility, movement and encounters? How is heritage transmitted and transformed in constant interaction with other people, materials and landscapes?

The course will be set in Mapungupwe National Park in South Africa, and will focus on this setting in the coursework. By engaging with different disciplinary approaches, both in literature and discussions, the main objective is, however, to extend the discussions beyond this setting and allow participants to think about the theoretical and methodological outlook of their own work.

Course work

The course will consist of both seminars and lectures. Before the course starts, each PhD student will prepare a paper for pre-circulation, addressing her or his research project in relation to the course theme. In the course seminars, each paper will be allotted ca. 45 minutes, beginning with the student presenting a 15-minute summary of its contents. This is followed with a 10 min commentary from one of the other PhD students (selected in advance), after which she or he will chair an open discussion on the paper for approximately 20 minutes.

The participants will also engage with photographs and imagery of a range of materials, and objects selected by the course coordinators, which will challenge participants to reflect on their own work in relation to memories, materials and things in new places.

Both the reading list and course work will be sensitive to the suggested African context and location of the seminar, in Mapungupwe National Park, South Africa.


Michael Rowlands     þóra pétursdóttir    Shadreck Chirikure     Ceri Ashley


(photo credit: hum.gu.se, uit.no, faces of archaeology, Academia.edu) 

Michael Rowlands (University College London) 

þóra pétursdóttir (University of Tromsø)

Shadreck Chirikure (University of Cape Town)

Ceri Ashley (University of Pretoria)


1 month or 7 ECTS

Location, Travel and Costs

The Graduate School will finance and arrange travel and accommodation, as well as supply a daily allowance during the seminar for all participating PhD students who are part of the Dialogues With the Past network and participating PhD students from South African Universitites. Two and two PhD students will share a room.

PhD Students travelling from Europe need to possess a valid passport, and a valid visa for South Africa (if required by your home country).

Each student is also responsible for getting the necessary vaccines for visiting South Africa. Check which vaccines your Foreign Service and Health Directorate recommend for the area which the course will be held (Mapungupwe National Park), and make sure to take them in due time. Be aware that Mapungubwe National Park is situated in malaria risk areas.

Each student is also responsible for obtaining travel insurance in addition to health insurance while abroad. Make sure in due time that you are sufficiently covered by your insurance provider.

Please note that that the Research School will not cover these expenses and that each PhD student must bear the costs of these requirements (visas, vaccinations and Insurance(s)) themselves.


The Graduate school invites all registered PhD students to apply for participation. Please follow this link to apply for the course (in English only). From these applications, c. 20 PhD students will be admitted to the course.

For more information please contact: dial-past@iakh.uio.no

Important dates

Application for participation: until June 15, 2018. Confirmation on your participation will be sent out shortly after this date together with a reading list.

Submission of working papers (10 pages, Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5): October 8, 2018.

Appointment of discussants: October 15, 2018.

Tags: Heritage, Movement, Mobility, Migration, Anthropology, Archaeology, Museums and Museology
Published Apr. 17, 2018 1:38 PM - Last modified Feb. 27, 2020 12:19 PM