What sustaining heritage really does

John Carman

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    Increasingly across the globe, heritage agencies have taken on board the critique of heritage management enshrined in Smith’s (2006) argument about the dominance of an ‘authorised heritage discourse’ and the way this has been developed by other writers in the field. To this end, they are increasingly engaged in extending their work towards working with communities. This is highly commendable and contributes towards the sustainability of heritage as a category. What gets lost in the debates about community engagement and involvement, however, is any consideration of the nature or role of the heritage agency as a type of institution; and yet an understanding of the role of these institutions in the process is essential if we are truly to break away from limited, top-down, highly managerial conceptions of what heritage is for. It is not just a matter of organisations doing what they do in a more inclusive manner; it is more than them moving from positions of authority to acting as facilitators. There needs to be a clear understanding by all involved in the heritage process – including those who work for institutions – of how institutions function in relation to the object of their attention and others who have an interest in that object. The question arises, what is it that efforts to create a sustainable heritage actually sustain? This is similar to Foucault’s comment that individuals have a good understanding of what they do, have a fairly good understanding of why they do it, but lack a clear conception of what they do does. Taking this as a starting-point, and drawing upon work from sociologists, anthropologists
    and others, this paper will outline an approach to gaining the necessary insights by an examination of heritage bodies as particular types of bureaucracy. The object is not to dismiss or denigrate the work of heritage bodies but to demonstrate and highlight the particular role they play in relation to maintaining heritage as a sustainable resource for the future. Bureaucracies function in particular ways: heritage agencies inevitably also do so. The ultimate
    consequences which derive from sustaining heritage therefore derive from the work of these bureaucracies and we need to understand what they are. This paper addresses this question.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHeritage 2018
    Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 6th international conference on heritage and sustainable development
    EditorsRogerio Amoeda, Sergio Lira, Cristina Pinheiro, Juan M. Santiago Zaragoza, Julio Calvo Serrano, Fabian Garcia Carrillo
    Place of PublicationSpain
    PublisherEditorial Universidad de Granada
    Number of pages6
    ISBN (Electronic)9788433862617
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018
    EventHeritage & Sustainable Development 2018 - ETSIE, Granada, Spain
    Duration: 12 Jun 201815 Jun 2018


    ConferenceHeritage & Sustainable Development 2018
    Abbreviated titleHeritage 2018


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