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Book Launch: Critical Approaches To Heritage For Development

10 May 2023

At this inaugural launch, contributors to Critical Approaches to Heritage for Development will discuss the politics and potential of mobilising the past for ‘progress’, considering some of the key questions and issues the book tackles:

  • How do people draw on the past to imagine and pursue better futures?
  • What has heritage got to do with contemporary challenges such as maternal health, post-conflict reconciliation and ocean sustainability
  • What are the implications of attempts to instrumentalise the past for who shapes and benefits from development?

Critical Approaches to Heritage for Development responds to growing interest in the potential for cultural heritage to contribute to development at different scales, from the global agendas articulated by UNESCO and in the Sustainable Development Goals, to the everyday ways in which people draw on the past in working out what a good life might mean and how it might be achieved. Contributions consider a wide range of attempts to mobilise the past for ‘progress’, including formalised interventions led by museums and development agencies, the institutionalisation of traditional practices in service delivery, livelihood strategies pursued by groups and individuals, and claims for restitution and reparation for past wrongs. In addition to heritage tourism and economic development, chapters focus on themes such as maternal and mental health, education, climate and environment, and governance, peace and security.

Both heritage and development are subject to multiple, often conflictual, interpretations, and are implicated in political contestation over how we imagine and value the past and the future. Contributions to the book raise important questions about histories and legacies of colonialism and calls for decolonisation, and related negotiations over expertise, ownership and agency.  Instead of asking whether heritage can contribute to development, we aim to explore how the past is selectively used to pursue ‘progress’, and whose pasts and whose futures are at stake.

Speakers included:

  • Tolulope Esther Fadeyi - a Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of History and Centre for African Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland. Fadeyi’s research explores the history of science, traditional medicine, and maternity care in 19th and 20th Century Yoruba society. Her interest in integrative maternity care also extends to the history of rural women and the medical dynamics that impact their patterns of pregnancy, childcare, and postpartum care.
  • Nelson Adebo Abiti - is a PhD candidate of history at the University of Western Cape in South Africa specialising in Museology. Abiti is curator for Ethnography and History at the Uganda National Museum. He has vast experience of museum and intangible heritage in which he has served as national expert on the UNESCO Conventions of 2003 and 2005 respectively in Uganda. His research focuses on community memorials, restitution of artefacts, ethnographic collections and tribal society in Uganda. 
  • Mark Lamont - tinkers with anthropology, history and political ecology. He has published on heritage as development in coastal Kenya, as co-ivestigator in a GCRF Hub, 'Rising From The Depths' innovation project (MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek). He pays close attention to current and historical debates about how best to manage changing coastlines and erosion in the UK. Mark is working with artists, community champions, and volunteer archaeologists looking at connections between heritage, development and the climate crisis. 
  • Chair Thais de Carvalho - is a Lecturer in Sustainable Development at The Open University, focusing on decolonial political ecology and generational issues. Thais has both practical and theoretical expertise in social policy and an interdisciplinary background that draws from development studies, anthropology and human geography. Her doctoral thesis explored the unforeseen impact of intercultural school and social protection on indigenous families in rural Amazonia, and the cascading effects of climate change on children's livelihoods. 

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