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Institute of Advanced Study

Time and Heritage: stability and conflict in global and local cultures

A concept inextricably linked with Time is that of Heritage. Heritage, in its cultural and natural form, is all around us. We experience our life and form our identities with aspects of the past and our environment, which are interpreted and reinterpreted time and time again. Both personal and community identities are formed through tangible and intangible legacies, and they have become key elements in sustaining a sense of pride. Yet the key role of heritage and its potential to unite and create a sense of community may also come to instantiate divisions. Tensions may arise over who should control stewardship and the benefits of heritage, and there are competing claims to the past from different ethnic, local and national communities worldwide. Conflicts have appeared where colonialism dispossessed the 'native' inhabitants of their territories and turned them into 'others', and the rights given to professionals over heritage control have been challenged. These disputes shape and inform the ethical and legal framework of heritage. 

The 'Time and Heritage: stability and conflict in global and local cultures' project aims to explore the potential of heritage in community stability and solving conflict by: 

  • Assessing the role of national and and international bodies in the legislation, protection and promotion of heritage.
  • Appraising the ethical imperatives and difficulties of stewardship and the benefits of cultural and natural heritage.
  • Evaluating the competing understanding of heritage sites and their commodification as assets through tourism.
  • Analysing the disputes that have emerged in relation to looting and the illicit trade in antiquities and natural products.
  • Looking at conflict resolution in struggles over cultural and natural heritage in conflict areas.  

Central to the project will be a strategic approach to future planning. There is a wide collective of scholars working on these topics in Durham and the establishment of networks within and beyond Durham is a key aim. The programme will capitalise on Durham’s physical assets (natural and industrial heritage and World Heritage Site), its institutional capacity (with museums, archives, centres and institutes such as CECH and IMRS). This project not only offers interdisciplinary linkage, but through that it brings together the cultural, historical, archaeological and natural (ecological) heritages that are often treated separately in separate research silos. This is why we have attracted scholars from departments with very diverse interests including anthropology, archaeology, biology, geography, law and philosophy. 

The development of the project will be assisted by the IAS Fellow Professor Alison M. Wylie from the University of Washington, a leading expert on issues of archaeological heritage and the debates regarding the ethics of stewardship. 

A number of activities are planned for 2012-2013 including a two-day conference in collaboration with UNESCO, a series of public lectures and research dialogues. The two-day conference will take place between the 26th and the 27th of October 2012 (Castle and IAS) includes participants from department of archaeology, history and philosophy, international experts from heritage management, and representatives of the local communities. The conference will examine the possibilities and effects of cultural and natural landscapes in the light of UNESCO's Historic and Urban Landscape Action Plan. Additional information is available from Dr Andreas Pantazatos (Philosophy) and Dr Sarah Semple (Archaeololgy). The public series will welcome a number of national and international prominent speakers including Professor Alison  M. Wylie (Autumn 2012), Professor Cornelius Holtorf, (Archaeology) Linnaeus University, Sweden (6th February 2013 at ER 201), Professor Janet Ulph (Law) Leicester University (March 2013) and others.

For full details of all the events please visit the Events Listing