chapter  2
29 Pages

Some definitions: Heritage, modernity, materiality

This chapter introduces some broad definitions and concepts that underpin the arguments that follow. In the first part I consider a number of definitions of heritage and explore some important fundamental differences between the ways in which heritage has been perceived in the United Kingdom and Western Europe on the one hand, and in North America on the other. Following this, I discuss the relationship of heritage to modernity as a philosophical concept, arguing that heritage is informed by the relationship between modernity and time, the idea of ‘risk’ or threat, and the role of ordering, classifying and categorising in modernity, as background to the historical accounts of the rise of heritage in Chapters 3 and 4. One of the key concerns of this book is a series of crises that have arisen over the course of the past few decades as a consequence of the diversification and global spread of heritage over the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In exploring these crises, I focus particularly on the relationship of various actors-practitioners, state officials, local stakeholders, academicsto the material aspects of heritage and the particular circumstances of the debates in which various local issues have influenced global and national heritage practices. In the final part of this chapter, I introduce a number of approaches concerned with helping elucidate the relationships between actors and the various environments in which they operate, including actor-network theory and assemblage theory. Part of my argument in this book is that a major outcome of the debates about heritage that have been central to the rise of critical heritage studies as an academic discipline over the past three decades has been a process of ‘dematerialising’ heritage by introducing an ever-increasing emphasis on the intangible aspects of heritage and tradition as part of an exponential growth in the objects, places and practices that are considered to be defined as heritage. As a result, I also introduce a number of concepts that derive from a growing literature on new approaches to material culture in the social sciences, which

are integral to a dialogical model of heritage that I explore later in the book. This chapter contains theoretical and conceptual material that underpins much of the rest of the volume.