Heritage as pharmakon and the Muses as deconstruction: problematising curative museologies and heritage healing
In his opening address at the Material Worlds conference, Professor Simon Knell, in honouring the distinguished contribution of Professor Sue Pearce to the fields of material culture studies, archaeology and, perhaps most significant of all, museum studies, singled out her text On Collecting (1995) for particular praise. It is as a similar act of homage that I take Pearce’s text as a point of inspiration from which to critically explore the phenomenon of ‘heritage healing’ and ‘curative museologies’ which marks the current intellectual and ethical drives of heritage studies. I argue, that just as Derrida’s critical recovery of the ‘pharmakon’, made via a deconstruction of its ancient etymological roots and metaphysical origins, forms a central motif within the lexicon of deconstruction and as such is pivotal
to his strategy of ‘taking on the tradition’ (Naas 2003), similarly, a strategic and critical recovery of the origins-etymology-mythologies-genealogies of the Muses and crucially of their efficacious – pharmakonic – qualities affords a potent deconstructive potential. Not least, positioning ‘heritage as pharmakon’ has the ability to distinguish the benevolent and malevolent agendas at play, the ambivalences and the overdetermined nature of discourses that institutionalise ‘culture as cure’ and as ‘heritage healing’.