Helle Jorgensen

Biography

Cultural heritage has been an enduring interest in my work, which has involved university-based research as well as applied work in the museum sector. My experience after completing my MA in anthropology in 2005 includes a range of project employments with an emphasis on cultural history, where amongst other things I have worked as a curator in a Danish museum, the Museum of Møn.

In 2007-2010 I carried out my PhD project, which investigated the contemporary cross-cultural heritage development in Tranquebar, a former Danish trading colony in South India which has been declared a heritage town by Indian authorities, based on the townscape and buildings which were constructed in the period of Danish rule from 1620 to 1845, after which Tranquebar was sold to the British. My project was part of the Tranquebar Initiative, an interdisciplinary research initiative housed at the National Museum of Denmark, focusing on past and present cultural encounters associated with Tranquebar.

My applied research also includes work as a research assistant at the Center of Museology, Aarhus University. Here, one of my key tasks was to carry out a qualitative research project on barriers and potential for museum use amongst young people in Denmark on behalf of the National Cultural Heritage Agency in 2011.

After completing my PhD project I have continued to be involved in a range of projects related to heritage and colonial history in and around Tranquebar, such as book publications and dissemination on the web, for the National Museum of Denmark as well as in other contexts. My work on behalf of the National Museum of Denmark has also included writing a report with recommendations on the development of heritage and tourism in Tranquebar for the Ministry of Tourism in Tamil Nadu.

My current research is also focused on colonial heritage in India, where I have branched out to investigate the management and representation of the much more recent legacy of India’s colonial relations with France, which ceded its Indian territories de facto in 1954; and de jure only in 1962.

Prior to joining IIICH I taught across a range of disciplines in Danish universities, including anthropology, history, museology, comparative cultural studies and regional studies (South Asian and European).

Research interests

While I have done research focusing on national or more local contexts, notably concerning heritage and museology in Denmark, I have a particular interest in investigating the production of heritage in cross-cultural and transnational contexts, especially within the framework of post/colonial relations, with the particular tensions which these relations often imply. My earliest work in this field focused on the repatriation of human remains from ethnographic museums to indigenous people in New Zealand. I also have fieldwork experience from India. Here I have investigated the development of the former trading colony Tranquebar as a heritage town and a destination of heritage tourism, both as seen against decades of development plans and in the particular context of responses to the disastrous tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean in 2004. My current research also revolves around colonial and postcolonial relations in India. I am doing research both in the Union State Territory of Puducherry (the former French India) in Southern India, and in the former European settlements along the Hughli River in West Bengal in Northern India. In Puducherry I am investigating the present representations of French-Indian colonial connections and the associated postcolonial imaginaries and understandings of independence, as well as the management of heritage and tourism in the capital city’s  contemporary process of urban development pressures. In West Bengal I am involved in a collective interdisciplinary project focused on heritage along the Hughli River corridor, called the Hughli River of Cultures project, for which see this link: https://www.archiam.co.uk/the-hugli-river-of-cultures-pilot-project-from-bandel-to-barrackpore/

My research interests are oriented towards identity politics, social memory and perceptions of historicity, and not least towards the encounters and clashes between different concepts and practices related to understandings of heritage and its meaning in the present. This includes negotiations between different agents and their interests in producing and using heritage, for instance in the context of economic development and urbanisation. I am interested in a wide range of practices and the interplays between them, from professional heritage management and research to tourism and everyday uses of sites, objects and phenomena claimed as heritage.

Willingness to take PhD students

Yes

PhD projects

I currently have no capacity to take on new PhD projects

Completed PhD projects:
· Thi Quynh Ngoc Bui: Accommodating Traditions of Hospitality in a Tourist Region: the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
· Malgorzata Trelka: “When the Heritage Came”: World Heritage and local communities through the prism of Ironbridge Gorge
· Coralie Rachel Acheson: Visiting the Industrial Revolution: The Communication of World Heritage Values to Tourists in Ironbridge Gorge
· Aidatul Fadzlin Binti Bakri: Negotiating Identities and ‘Sense of Place’ in a World Heritage City: The Case of George Town, Penang, Malaysia
· Richard Bigambo: Safeguarding Practices for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Tanzania: National vs Local Perspectives

Current supervision:
· Abdirahman Nuur Mahamed: PhD project on tourism in post-conflict development in Somaliland
· Ismail Elnour: PhD project on community conceptualisations of heritage surrounding the archaeological site of Jebel Barkal, Sudan
· Hee Joo Kim: PhD project on heritage development surrounding historic cities in South Korea
· Arooj Al Rae: PhD project on museums and national Identity in Oman
· Predencia Dixon: PhD project on the cultural identities and intangible heritage associated with Jamaican death rituals
· Ximena Lecaros Vial: The home as a locus of identity, heritage and memory of migrant communities in Chile
· Meha Desai: Food heritage and its role in constructing the memories and identity of India’s Parsi community
· Lingjun Li: The Impact of Covid-19 on Museums in the UK