ACHS 2018 Conference

Association of Critical Heritage Studies, 4th Biennial Conference

1-6 September 2018

Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Call for Session Proposals (link): Deadline 31 March 2017

“Heritage Across Borders”

The global rise of heritage studies and the heritage industry in recent decades has been a story of crossing frontiers and transcending boundaries. The 2018 Association of Critical Heritage Studies conference, held in Hangzhou, China, thus takes ‘borders’ as a broadly defined, yet key, concept for better understanding how heritage is valued, preserved, politicised, mobilised, financed, planned and destroyed. Thinking through borders raises questions about theories of heritage, its methodologies of research, and where its boundaries lie with tourism, urban development, post-disaster recovery, collective identities, climate change, memory or violent conflict. Held in the city of Hangzhou, China, Heritage Across Borders will be the largest ever international conference in Asia dedicated to the topic of heritage. It has been conceived to connect international participants with local issues, and in so doing open up debates about the rural-urban, east-west, tangible-intangible and other familiar divides.

Borders tell us much about the complex role heritage plays in societies around the world today. Historically speaking, physical and political borders have led to ideas about enclosed cultures, and a language of cultural property and ownership which marches forward today in tension alongside ideals of universalism and the cosmopolitan. More people are moving across borders than ever before, with vastly different motivations and capacities. What role can heritage studies play in understanding the experiences of migrants or the plight of refugees? And what heritage futures do we need to anticipate as the pressures of international tourism seem to relentlessly grow year by year?

Heritage Across Borders will consider how the values of heritage and approaches to conservation change as objects, experts, and institutions move across frontiers. It will ask how new international cultural policies alter creation, performance, and transmission for artists, craftspersons, musicians, and tradition-bearers.

What are the frontiers of cultural memory in times of rapid transformation? How can museums engage with increasingly diverse audiences by blurring the distinctions between the affective and representational? And do digital reproductions cross important ethical boundaries?

One of the key contributions of critical heritage studies has been to draw attention to the role of heritage in constructing and operationalising boundaries and borders of many kinds-national, social, cultural, ethnic, economic and political.  In what ways do international flows of capital rework indigenous and urban cultures, and reshape nature in ways that redefine existing boundaries?

We especially welcome sessions and papers that challenge disciplinary boundaries and professional divides, and explore cross-border dialogues. What lessons can be learned from Asia where the distinctions between the tangible and intangible are less well marked? And how can researchers bridge cultural and linguistic barriers to better understand these nuances?

Organised by Zhejiang University this major international conference will be held in Hangzhou, China on 1-6 September 2018.

Conference website:


State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places 2016


Nearly Half of National Park Ecosystems Rate as ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’ in Parks Canada Report

By Susan Lunn | January 26, 2017

A federal report by Parks Canada shows that almost half of the ecosystems in the country’s national parks remain in fair to poor condition, five years after a previous report with similar concerns.

The report, called State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places, was tabled in the House of Commons in mid-December.

It contains a table rating the condition of forests, freshwater lakes, wetlands and coastal areas in all national parks across the country.

The report finds that 29 of the 41 national parks and reserves measured had at least one ecosystem rated as fair or poor. Twelve of the parks or reserves had all of the areas measured rated as good. […]

Canadians currently have an opportunity to tell the minister directly what they want done with federal parks.

[Federal Environment Minister Catherine] McKenna has been holding in-person and online consultations with stakeholders and the general public. The consultations wrap up Friday.

More than 1,700 people have submitted comments, many of them urging the minister to put nature before development.

Woodley isn’t surprised.

“I think it’s important for this government to understand Canadians do love our national parks. They are one of our top symbols of national identity.

“But they love them because they’re natural. Because they’re wild spaces that are places where wildlife can live and where there’s pristine natural beauty,” Woodley said. …

Read the rest of this article at the CBC:


State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places

2016 Report
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PDF version (8 MB)

2011 Report
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PDF version (2.4MB)

Politics and the English Language

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.”

George Orwell, 1946, Politics and the English Language


Read more about Trump and Orwell:

Read more about Trump and Heritage:

A Short History of ‘America First’


A Short History of ‘America First’

The phrase used by President Trump has been linked to anti-Semitism during World War II.

By Krishnadev Calamur | January 21, 2017

President Trump’s speech Friday will go down as one of the shorter inaugural addresses, but it will also be remembered for its populist and often dark tone.

“From this day forward,” Trump said at one point, “it’s going to be only America first. America first.”

Trump appears to have first used the phrase last March in an interview with The New York Times when he denied he was an isolationist. “I’m not isolationist, but I am ‘America First,’” he said. “So I like the expression. I’m ‘America First.’”

Trump insisted publicly that he wrote his own speech, going as far as to tweet a picture of himself  holding a pen and piece of paper in his hotel at Mar-A-Lago. But as The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, Trump’s speech was at least in part written by Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, two of Trump’s senior advisers. Bannon, as has been widely reported, was previously CEO of Breitbart, the conservative news site that he’s described as a platform for the alt-right, a movement that combines elements of white nationalism and economic populism.

“I don’t think we’ve had a speech like that since Andrew Jackson came to the White House,” Bannon told the Journal. “It’s got a deep root of patriotism.” …

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic:

The Unintended Consequences of UNESCO World Heritage Listing


The Unintended Consequences of UNESCO World Heritage Listing

By Chloé Maurel | January 11, 2017

The principle of world heritage promoted by UNESCO is of crucial importance at a time when tourism has become a global phenomenon, involving more than a billion people and generating an annual revenue of nearly US$1245 billion in 2014.

With the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, UNESCO created the list of sites thought to be of exceptional value. While listing does not automatically lead to funding for the protection of listed sites, and although UNESCO is powerless to stop them being destroyed or damaged (like the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, or the Temple of Baal in Palmyra, Syria, demolished in 2015), the list of world heritage sites remains a key element of UNESCO’s work, and what it is best known for by the general public.

UNESCO world heritage listing confers prestige. It is sought after by countries wishing to promote their historical and natural assets, and gives them a place on the world stage.

Tangible, intangible and documentary heritage

The list of world heritage sites now comprises more than 1,000 sites. Another, the intangible cultural heritage list, was created in 2003 to catalogue practices, traditions, dances, customs and know-how, rather than physical sites. In part, its purpose is to redress the obvious asymmetry in the first list, which contains an overwhelming majority of European sites, while Africa is drastically underrepresented. Moreover, listed sites in Africa are mostly “natural” heritage sites, while Europe has a surfeit of “cultural” sites, such a churches and castles, that are already highly valued and do not necessarily require further protection.

In 1995, UNESCO also created a register called The Memory of the World, listing significant and sometimes endangered or fragile artefacts of human documentary heritage, such as the Bayeux tapestry.

It would be easy to assume that these initiatives unite people in a common effort to protect shared cultural heritage. In fact, they often spark power struggles and rivalries, or even open conflict, demonstrating that the principle of heritage can be appropriated for financial, political or geopolitical ends. …

Mass tourism at listed sites

Several cases illustrate the problematic nature of UNESCO’s heritage protection measures. Very often, the principle of world cultural heritage is diverted from its official purpose and used to promote tourism, or for political and economic reasons. In his study of UNESCO’s heritage policies, anthropologist David Berliner speaks of the “Unescoization” of the small heritage listed city of Luang Prabang in Laos. He demonstrates that one of the contradictory consequences of UNESCO protection is intense tourism development. …

Negative outcomes for local populations

Prestigious as it is, the list of world heritage sites can also negatively affect sections of the local population. In Panama City, the 1997 listing of the historic Casco Viejo neighbourhood relegated its poorest inhabitants to the city limits. Meanwhile, the central district became a tourist attraction. At the time, the Casco Viejo was a run-down neighbourhood. It underwent a radical transformation, resulting in the brutal eviction of people from the poorer classes, whose windows were boarded in attempts to force them out while the surrounding neighbourhood was restored and gentrified.

It is now largely inhabited by rich foreigners who buy up the best colonial buildings to sell off in parcels. Tourism in Panama City has increased exponentially since the heritage listing, homogenising the urban landscape and exacerbating inequalities. …

Read the full version of this article at The Conversation:

Do We Have an Inferiority Complex about Great Canadians?

A new Canadian fisheries vessel will be named after English Royal Navy officer and explorer Sir John Franklin, who disappeared into the Arctic in 1847 with two ships and 128 of his men.

Do We Have an Inferiority Complex about Great Canadians?

By Jack Knox | January 17, 2017

Here’s a question: Why name a federal research ship after a foreigner synonymous with disaster when you could celebrate Canadian achievement instead?

Which, in a nutshell, is what critics are asking as Canada prepares to launch the Sir John Franklin next winter.

The ship, a replacement for the Nanaimo-based W.E. Ricker, is the first of three offshore fisheries research vessels being built for the Canadian Coast Guard by Seaspan in North Vancouver.

As construction began in June 2015, Ottawa announced the 63-metre vessel would be named after Franklin, the explorer who famously (or infamously) disappeared into the Arctic with both of his ships and all 128 of his men after sailing from England in 1845.

The ships’ whereabouts remained one of the world’s great mysteries despite dozens of attempts to find them over the years. Franklin’s wife, the indomitable Lady Jane Franklin, drove a series of searches that failed to locate her husband (she actually spent a month in Victoria in 1861), but that did have the effect of gradually filling in the map of the north, cementing Britain’s — and subsequently Canada’s — territorial claims.

Eventually, the fate of the sailors emerged: After becoming stuck in the ice of Victoria Strait in 1846, they set out overland in April 1848 in a desperate attempt to reach Fort Resolution, 1,000 kilometres away. None survived. Although remains of crew members were found (indications are some resorted to cannibalism) the location of the ships was unknown — until a couple of years ago.

The Franklin mystery was big news in 2015, given that the expedition’s flagship, HMS Erebus, had just been found intact on the ocean floor the previous September. (The Victoria-based coast guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier played a central role in the discovery; in March 2015, two dozen members of the crew were awarded medals by Sen. Nancy Greene Raine at Sidney’s Institute of Ocean Sciences.) The second sunken ship, HMS Terror, was found last year.

If the romance of it all made politicians keen to slap the Franklin name on the new research ship in 2015, some historians and scientists are balking today. Who wants to serve on a vessel whose name conjures up an image of nautical disaster? That would be like sailing on a nuclear submarine named USS Chernobyl. Why not honour a successful Canadian instead?

“It’s a complete puzzle to me,” says Robie Macdonald. “It’s a sad thing that they have taken an opportunity to do something good and turned it into a negative.” … Why not give the ship an indigenous name, Macdonald asks. Or why not honour one of the many deserving women in ocean research? (Coast guard ship names tilt to the masculine.) “There are a lot of people they could have named it after.” …

Read the rest of this article at the Times-Colonist: