Conference hashtag: #heritagehcas

Heritage is an exceptionally vital topic of global multidisciplinary discussion, debate and theory development. Heritage discussions continue to gain momentum, yet involve so many disciplines and researchers that it is rapidly diversifying, producing an immediate need to bring insights and perspectives from different fields and discussions into open dialogue.

Roughly half a century ago, ‘heritage’ developed into an instrument of political actors for the conservation and protection of emblems and resources of culture. UNESCO was central to this process and the concept’s swift, global spread, advocating the implicit moral evaluation that heritage is something belonging to the past, relevant to the present, and which should be preserved for the future. The resounding boom of heritage stimulated huge amounts of research connected with preservation, legislation, documentation and so forth, yet the turn to critical heritage studies is remarkably recent – i.e. looking critically at why, for example, certain things and not others are identified as ‘heritage’, by whom and why, politicization, commodification, multivocality in heritage discourses, or their consequences and impacts in different sectors of society.

The main title of the event adapts Laurajane Smith’s seminal statement “There is, really, no such thing as heritage” (2006:11), which stresses the social constructedness of heritage and opened the door to the exploration of ideologies, structures, relationships to identities and so on involved in the construction of heritage. In the wake of the turn to critical heritage studies, a veritable cascade of phenomena have been brought into focus and theorized, with growing awareness not only of the constructedness of heritage but also of discussions of heritage, and of dichotomies like natural/cultural, tangible/intangible, authentic/inauthentic and representational/non-representational. It has become crucial to reflect on concepts, categories, their foundations and ideologies behind them, as well as to develop and test theories and methodologies suited to today’s evolving understandings.

The symposium focuses on practices, assumptions, constructs and ideologies linked to heritage and its operation, looking especially at categories and oppositions constructed through discourse. The emergence of critical heritage perspectives has produced two levels of discussion in heritage studies to which we here add a third by looking critically at critical heritage studies and the constructedness of the categories and oppositions that have structured it. “No such thing as heritage? brings together representatives of different forms of heritage ‘on the ground’, diverse strands of critical heritage studies and beyond in order to weave together the various threads of current debates, new approaches and participants’ many and wide-ranging perspectives through open discussion.

For further information about the conference, feel free to contact Eila Stepanova (eila.stepanova[at]helsinki.fi).

Symposium is organized by the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in collaboration with:

Folklore Studies of the University of Helsinki

The Finnish Society for Ethnomusicology

Kone funded project “Ownership, language, and cultural heritage: Ideologies of folk poetry in the areas of Finland, Republic of Karelia, and Estonia”

“Performative negotiations of belonging in contemporary Estonia” (PSG48) start-up grant funded by the Estonian Research Council

Kone funded project “Language Repertoires and Ideologies in the Emergence of the Collaborative Heritage and Literature of the Nenets”

Academy of Finland project “Mythology, Verbal Art and Authority in Social Impact”

HUMANA – Human Migration and Network Analysis: Developing New Research Methods for the Study of Human Migration and Social Change