“Cutting-edge. Builds on innovative fieldwork across three continents to offer a sophisticated take on the political and cultural complexities of landscapes exploited by resource-extraction industries.”—Laurajane Smith, author of Uses of Heritage
“An engaging overview of how large multinational companies use the concept of heritage to reposition their work within discourses about environmental sustainability and resilience.”—Paul Lane, coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology
Critical Theory and the Anthropology of Heritage Landscapes explores the sociopolitical contexts of heritage landscapes and the many issues that emerge when different interest groups attempt to gain control over them. Based on career-spanning case studies undertaken by the author, this book looks at sites with deep indigenous histories. Melissa Baird pays special attention to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the Burrup Peninsula along the Pilbara Coast in Australia, the Altai Mountains of northwestern Mongolia, and Prince William Sound in Alaska. For many communities, landscapes such as these have long been associated with cultural identity and memories of important and difficult events, as well as with political struggles related to nation-state boundaries, sovereignty, and knowledge claims.
Drawing on the emerging field of critical heritage theory and the concept of “resource frontiers,” Baird shows how these landscapes are sites of power and control and are increasingly used to promote development and extractive agendas. As a result, heritage landscapes face social and ecological crises such as environmental degradation, ecological disasters, and structural violence. She describes how heritage experts, industries, government representatives, and descendant groups negotiate the contours and boundaries of these contested sites and recommends ways such conversations can better incorporate a critical engagement with indigenous knowledge and agency.
Melissa F. Baird is assistant professor of anthropology at Michigan Technological University.