PhD workshop - Heritage: Premodern Perspectives

This workshop explores how modern notions of ‘heritage’ can be applied to the study of premodern societies and their views on cultural preservation and transmission.

Heritage is often understood as a modern notion. Its origins are commonly believed to lay in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and in national (if not nationalist) agendas. Even the ever-growing interest in local, indigenous, and dissonant heritages in the fields of Heritage Studies and the Social Sciences have largely been restricted to (recent) modernity. Yet others have argued that there is little in many recent definitions of the term ‘heritage’ to restrict it to near-contemporary history and that certain practices in premodern Europe can comfortably be construed as compatible to types of activity that fall into the heritage rubric. 

In particular, the workshop addresses the following sets of questions:

  1. How can concepts and insights from modern Heritage Studies be applied to the study of premodern societies? And, vice versa, how can a longer historical analysis contribute to a better understanding of modern heritage? What are the dangers of anachronism? And how can these be tackled?
  2. How has the modern notion of ‘heritage’ developed? How is it rooted in earlier ideas about the engagement with significant objects, texts, and ideas from the remote past? How and why did ‘heritage’ emerge as the dominant concept?
  3. What alternative concepts and metaphors do we have to think and talk about heritage? For example: legacy, afterlife, survival, tradition. How do they work, and what are their conceptual gains and losses for understanding premodern heritage phenomena?

Considering historical examples of premodern societies adds greater context and perspective for understanding differing modern approaches to heritage; while drawing on discussions in Heritage Studies presents an alternative, potentially illuminating lens for examining and categorising the activity of such societies in the remote past.


Prof. Dr. Han Lamers, UiO

Dr. Christopher Siwicki, DniR (UiO)


The workshop will take place over three days in Rome, hosted at the Norwegian institute, and comprises student-led presentations, guest lectures, and site visits around the city. Student participants will present their ideas in the form of statement papers that will then be discussed with fellow participants and other researchers.

Papers should address the themes described above and might include specific case studies from a relevant historical period (premodern is here loosely defined as between antiquity and the 18th century) or broader methodological questions.

The workshop is open to PhD students of all career stages and across all disciplines, including those enrolled in IFIKK and IAKH at Oslo, as well as other universities and research institutes both inside and outside Norway.

Lunches, coffee breaks, and an event dinner are provided, however, participants will need to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements (please note these costs are not covered). A limited number of bursaries are available, although where possible participants should seek funding from home universities first.

Requirements for 5 ECTS

  • A preliminary research statement (ca. 1000 words), explaining the participant’s interest in the workshop and showing awareness of the reference reading.
  • A presentation on a subject relevant to the workshop at the Norwegian Institute in Rome. Statements papers are ca. 2500 words and will be pre-circulated one or two weeks before the workshop in Rome Submit one research question in writing to the instructor after each lecture.
  • Participation in the site visits and brief (500 words) reflection reports on them, relating the site visits to the overarching subject of the course.
  • A brief reflection paper on two PhD presentations at the workshop, relating them to each other and to the overarching subject of the course.


We ask applicants to submit a preliminary research statement detailing the proposed subject of their paper, their interest in the workshop, its relevance to their PhD, and a short biography with details their current position (ca. 1000 words). We also ask applicants to include the email address of a supervisor at their home university who we might contact for a reference.

Applications are due by 1 July. Applications are to be sent directly to the organizers (Han Lamers and Christopher Siwicki). Places on the workshop are limited, and applicants will be informed of the decision by 15 July. 

In the event that travel to Italy is not possible due to the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis, then the event will be postponed until Spring 2022. 

The course is partially funded by IFIKK and The Norwegian Institute in Rome.

Suggested reading

Choay, F. (2001). The Invention of the Historic Monument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Glendinning, M. (2013). The Conservation Movement: A History of Architectural Preservation: Antiquity to Modernity. London / New York: Routledge.

Harvey, D. 2001. “Heritage Pasts and Heritage Presents: Temporality, Meaning and the Scope of Heritage Studies.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 7(4), 319-338.

Harvey, D. 2008. “The History of Heritage.” In B. Graham and P. Howard (eds.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity, pp.19-36. Burlington: Ashgate.

Hobsbawm, E. J., & Ranger, T. O. (eds.). (2010). The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Karmon, D. E. (2011). The Ruin of the Eternal City: Antiquity and Preservation in Renaissance Rome. Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press.

Simpson, M. (2018). “Heritage: Nonwestern Understandings.” In Sandra L. López Varela (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences, 1-5. Malden, MA / Oxford / Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.

Willer, S. (2014). Erbfälle: Theorie und Praxis kultureller Übertragung in der Moderne. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink.


Published Apr. 22, 2021 4:21 PM - Last modified May 24, 2021 6:37 PM