“With a series of well-researched and rich ethnographic case studies, this volume offers a wholesale reappraisal of how scholars might view heritage and democracy. It suggests how cultural heritage might be seen as more than an ‘authorizing’ or ‘valorizing’ discourse and instead as a form of praxis intimately linked to democratic theory.”—Brian I. Daniels, director of research and programs, Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum
Cultural heritage is a powerful tool in society, capable of producing both social harms as well as social goods and benefits, which can be distributed unevenly via political channels. Reaching across disciplines and national boundaries, this volume examines cultural heritage work within the context of both democratic institutions and democratic practices, including participatory, deliberative, and direct democratic practices. Case studies highlight how democratic politics and cultural heritage shape, impact, and depend upon one another.
The rising crisis of democracy across the globe brings these dynamics into sharp relief. The unfinished and fragile nature of democratic politics shines a spotlight on both its shortcomings and its aspirational potential. This is a paradox that heritage practitioners and stakeholders navigate daily, serving as both critics and collaborators of democracy. At the same time that heritage practice embraces participatory approaches, it must also address the challenge of reconciling multiple, often unequal, and frequently incompatible claims for control over heritage. Grappling with democracy’s crises also increasingly means recognizing the power of heritage to reinforce or undermine democracy.
These essays ask: What are the democratic motives of heritage practice? Why do democracies need heritage? How do the social and cultural referents of heritage infuse democratic practices? Emphasizing the interplay of heritage and democracy in practices and institutions across scales of governance, Heritage and Democracy pinpoints a dynamic that has not been widely examined.
Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park, is the author of Mobilizing Heritage: Anthropological Practice and Transnational Prospects. Jon D. Daehnke, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is the author of Chinook Resilience: Heritage and Cultural Revitalization on the Lower Columbia River.