chapter  4
Heritage interpretation and human rights: documenting diversity, expressing identity, or establishing universal principles?
ByNeil A. Silberman
Pages 12

On the face of it, no quest could be nobler: to enrich and highlight the ‘outstanding universal value’ of World Heritage sites (Cleere 1996) with what the United Nations (UN) has recognised from its founding as the outstanding universal value of human rights (Schwelb 1964). In recent years, political scientists, legal scholars and social philosophers have separately and extensively discussed the complexity of the human rights concept, from the distinct standpoints of its historical evolution (Hunt 2008, Moyn 2010, Lauren 2011), judicial definition and significance (Blake 2000, Alston and Goodman 2007), and the perennially contentious question of its universality (Cerna 1994, Good 2010). Heritage studies scholars have discussed the dimensions of ‘rights-based’ heritage in both general terms and in (often negative) case studies from around the world (Silverman and Ruggles 2007). Anthropologists and archaeologists have tackled the problem of human rights through the lens of their own disciplines, envisioning these disciplines to be agents of social activism (Goodale 2009, Meskell 2009, Hodder 2010). A considerable body of theoretical work has therefore been assembled on the subject of human rights and their relevance to cultural heritage. However, the body of academic theory is yet to be effectively integrated into the

il A. Silberman

implementation of existing international conventions, charters and the various national conservation laws and practices that are derived from them.