chapter  9
23 Pages

Dialogical heritage and sustainability

I have suggested that one of the main challenges to World Heritage and the concept of ‘universal’ heritage value has been the test of maintaining its very universality, meaning that it was forced to take seriously the claims to represent the various different ways of conceptualising heritage which it met as a result of the globalisation of heritage in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In Chapter 6, I suggested that it was the creative ‘friction’ between the particular set of Euro-American ideas about heritage embodied in the World Heritage Convention and alternative Indigenous and non-Western concepts of heritage that gave rise to the introduction of the concepts of cultural landscapes and intangible heritage, and their introduction into the work of the World Heritage Committee. However, I argue that the concepts of intangible heritage and cultural landscapes adopted as a result of this process are fundamentally at odds with the Indigenous ontological position on which UNESCO and other heritage professionals have often claimed to draw in broadening the definitions of heritage to include these categories, maintaining instead a modern set of Cartesian dualisms that hold nature and culture, and matter and mind, to be separate. In this chapter, I want to consider the final of the series of conceptual crises that I have suggested emerged for heritage in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, in the form of the Indigenous ontological challenge to the concept of heritage expressed in the World Heritage Convention. In particular, I want to explore what it might mean to take seriously this ontological position, and the definition of heritage that emerges from it, as an alternative truth claim that might help us look at heritage and the world in a different way. In doing so, I propose a relational or dialogical model, which sees heritage as emerging from the relationship between a range of human and non-human actors and their environments. I suggest that this relational, dialogical model of heritage not only might be relevant in helping us to understand the friction between World Heritage

and particular local traditions with which it comes into conflict, but also might help us connect heritage with broader issues of environmental, political and social concern. Further, I suggest it represents a way of thinking about heritage that might transform our troubled late-modern relationship with memory (Chapter 8) and allow us to emancipate and use heritage in more creative, transformative ways in the future. In developing these ideas, I draw particularly on the work of anthropologists Deborah Bird Rose and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, and the symmetrical perspectives on culture and materiality that emerge from actor-network and assemblage theory and a consideration of heritage as apparatus or dispositif. I also argue that this dialogical model of heritage implies the employment of more dialogical models of heritage decision-making, drawing on Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes and Yannick Barthe’s work on hybrid forums to suggest new procedures that challenge the traditional separation of specialists, politicians, bureaucrats and stakeholders in the identification, conservation and management of official heritage.