German Historical Institute London, July 11 – 12, 2019
From the Ruins of Preservation: A Symposium on Rethinking Heritage Through Counter-Archives
Colonial legacies in heritage preservation have intersected and clashed with local realities since their inception. Heritage sites have often been created by way of processes which segregate them both temporally and geographically from the contemporary world, and the people who live with and amongst them. This might result in restrictions of habitation and cultivation, religious and ritual practice, and the removal of entire local settlements from inside and around natural and cultural heritage sites. Individuals and communities, however, have always had their own ways of preserving and engaging with material and immaterial significances. Objects, places and landscapes were and are embedded and reactivated in the domains of contemporary life. These realities defy and challenge the disciplinary baggage, canons and categories as well as prevailing methods, discourses, concepts and practices of heritage studies, which in many cases have proved unhelpful in engaging such records outside of “the archive” as it is conventionally understood.
The problem of adequately engaging the histories of these intersections has been exacerbated by methodological challenges. Historians have long ignored the gaps and unspoken emotions and bodies in written and visual archival sources. Visual analyses often lack the methods to engage with different iterations of the diverse and heterogenous agencies of both humans and nonhumans outside of the scope of official archives—the locals going about their lives in ancient ruins; the workers who labour on archaeological excavations; those often nameless individuals who serve as human scales next to an excavated building; the local guides who help “open up” landscapes to preservationists; or the agencies and affordances of forms of material culture themselves. Due to a turn against the forms of authority empowered in conventional archival sources, critical heritage studies have largely denied the usefulness and significance of archives for the study of such non-official forms of heritage preservation, which has led to the de-privileging of historical and visual analysis. This frustration has resulted in a general turning away from such sources by researchers within heritage studies to focus on contemporary issues, and their accompanying methods, especially “oral history” and ethnography. However, this move has frustrated historians who have seen heritage studies as a field in which the historical contexts of the contemporary phenomena which such scholars study has been effectively written out of the picture.
This conference presents a methodological intervention into reductionist preservation histories by developing a new diachronic, more diverse vocabulary and directions for future research in and on this field. Reconstructing new histories and viewpoints in order to re-examine the “ruins of preservation” it aims to rethink the varied agencies which surround both natural and cultural heritage preservation practices through new conceptual and methodological approaches. Re-engaging such histories is not only important in building a new historical approach to heritage, but will also help researchers to reconceptualise and recontextualise contemporary heritage phenomena. By re-centring the discourse about “heritage” to examine specific non-state practices through such methods we also seek a more nuanced and effective understanding of how preservation has been determined over time and from different perspectives.
There are a limited number of participant/discussant places available on a first come, first served basis. Expressions of interest should be emailed to Carole Sterckx (sterckx(ghi)ghil.ac.uk) stating affiliation and reason for wishing to attend. Please note that (free of charge) advance registration is mandatory and that participants will have to make their own travel arrangements.
Co-organized by Rodney Harrison (AHRC Heritage Priority Area Leadership Fellow/Professor of Heritage Studies at the UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Mirjam Brusius (Research Fellow in Colonial and Global History, German Historical Institute London).
Day 1 (Thursday 11 July, 2019)
09.30 Coffee and Registration
10.00 Introduction (Mirjam Brusius, GHIL and Rodney Harrison, UCL)
10.15 Keynote 1 Karen Salt: Excavating Resistance: Exploring the Ruins of History and the Marks of Injustice within the Archives
11.45-13.15 Session 1: The State and the Community
Chair: Indra Sengupta (GHIL)
Nancy A. Rushohora (Stellenbosch): Our Ancestors their Heroes: Contestation and Appropriation of the Majimaji War Heritage in Tanzania
Patricia Sellick, Elly Harrowell (Coventry): Contested Preservation in Susya (Palestine): Power, Asymmetry and Possibility
Mehiyar Kathem (London) in collaboration with Nasser A. Jassem (Mosul), Caroline Sandes (ICOMOS UK): The Role of state-access Infrastructures in Conceptualising Heritage post-2003 Iraq. An Examination of Mosul University Library Archives
14.15-15.45 Session 2: Counter-Archives I
Chair: Hana Morel (UCL)
Wendy Shaw (Berlin): From Preservation to Sustenance: Reengaging the Socratic Present Tense
Rishika Mukhopadhyay (Exeter): Heritage through making Practices: Engaging with the Living Craft Tradition of Chitpur Road, Kolkata
Jonathan Gardner (London), A Forgotten Archive of the Spectacular: London Mega Events and their Rubble
16.15-17.15 Keynote 2 Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann: The Problem of Mutual Heritage Discourse: Christiansborg Castle and the Danish Transatlantic Slave Trade
18.30 Dinner (for speakers and chairs only)
Day 2 (Friday 12 July, 2019)
09.30-11.00 Session 3: Re-contextualising Photographs
Chair: Mirjam Brusius (GHIL)
Jonas Van Mulder (Leiden): The Missionary Gaze Reversed. Deconstructing the Matadi-Leopoldville Railway (1891-1899)
Heba Abd el Gawad (Cairo): “We are the children of Tut-Ankh-Amon!”: Public Discourse as Counter-archive of Heritage Practices in Egypt
Colin Sterling (London): Ruins of the World: Rethinking Heritage and Photography
11.30-12.30 Keynote 3 Trinidad Rico: Heritage Archives and the Unsaid: Rumor, Secrecy, and Contradiction
13.30-15.00 Session 4: Counter-Archives II
Chair: Rodney Harrison (UCL)
Kate Hill (Lincoln): ‘Realer than History’: Bodies, Emotions and Living with Objects at the Highland Folk Museum, c. 1935-1950
Mustafa Kemal Baran (Istanbul): Labour and Local Communities in the History of Archaeology in Turkey: Archival Politics, Hybrid Methodologies, and Public Engagement
Rachel King (London): Marginal time: Scientific Cultures and Knowledge Production at the Edges of southern African History
15.00-15.30 Concluding Discussion and Comments