There is now a burgeoning literature accomplished by geographers and other social scientists on the sociocultural, political and economic impacts of conflicts and other forms of threats to the survival of cultural heritage and memory, such as in terms of wild and exploitative urban developments, unchecked tourism trends and the stresses of prevailing economic crises, among others. These studies often focus on the salience of preserving the past for the sustenance of future generations and how this can or should be done, frequently on the scale or in the name of national or 'world' heritage. Yet, there has been less focus on how cultural heritage, as well as the process of its making, particularly as these are executed ‘from below’ on the level of individuals and local communities at large, can also portend useful vehicles for purposes beyond merely the preservation of tradition, culture and therefore of identity. This includes (but are not necessarily limited to) the tasks of transcending differences, promoting reconciliation within or among societies, or for the general enhancement of local lives and livelihoods, such as via poverty reduction, identity formations, and the cultivation of social capital, innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Inspired by the emergence of the scholarly emphases on ‘heritage-from-below’ (Iain Robertson 2011) which offers a persuasive nudge to emphasize how cultural heritage is produced and practiced by non-state actors on a more mundane and quotidian level, and the call by Tim Winter (2013: 533) to employ heritage as a means of ‘addressing the critical issues that face the world today, the larger issues that bear upon and extend outwards from heritage’, this paper session provides a platform for the discussion of the following broad questions: ‘What are some of the impacts of wars and conflicts on the conceptualizations and practices related to cultural heritage making as it takes place within and by erstwhile local communities?’, ‘How can cultural heritage, and its making, be more usefully mobilized, both by elites as well as non-state actors, towards a peaceful and reconciliatory existence?’, ‘What are the ways that people on the ground can experience (in)formal heritage making?', ‘How can heritage be capitalized upon to improve local communities such as by facilitating social capital and the spirit of entrepreneurship?’ More broadly, the session looks to ask the question of what it means for geographers and other heritage scholars to take a more ‘critical’ stance towards our cultural heritage and how this can be achieved, not only within the contexts of formal but also informal heritage making. We welcome papers based on empirical evidence and yet able to theoretically widen understandings of what it means to practice heritage ‘from below’.
While not meant to be an exclusive list, some of the contributions that can be relevant to the session are papers and reflections that center on the following:
- Critical Heritage Studies: perspectives, approaches, social relevance
- Conflicts and its impact on local cultural heritage and its making
- Cultural heritage as sources of conflict/divisions/war
- Local heritage making as fodder for local identity formations
- Politics of cultural heritage and local memory making
- Cultural heritage ‘from below’ as tools of peace and reconciliation
- Cultural heritage, poverty reduction and improving livelihoods
- Heritage management and local community engagement
- ‘Co-construction’ in heritage making, representations and experiences
- The‘experiential’ in cultural heritage sites and landscapes
- Innovation/entrepreneurialism in/of cultural heritage making
- Social/cultural/political/economic capital in local heritage making