Henrik B. Lindskoug, Instituto de Antropología de Córdoba-CONICET, Departamento de Antropología, Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As archaeologists we are used to analyse the past, and we are well aware that the past is a construction in the present, but what about the future? We don’t discuss this topic to any larger extent, which is strange, since archaeology in a certain way is about gathering information about the past to next generations. However, in the last couple of years the future has emerged on the agenda in the archaeological literature (for example Reilly 2019; and various contributions in Waterton and Watson 2015) to mention just a few.
After reading Cultural Heritage and the Future edited by Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg (2021), I have become convinced that we do not discuss the future enough. We should start asking ourselves: how do we actively engage with future making processes in our society? The archaeological practice including conservation is strongly tied with different processes to document and preserving material remains for future generations. But what do we decide to preserve and for whom?
The chapters in the book have a logical order, and the authors engage in provocative analysis in heritage and the future with highly relevant cases involving innovative interpretations and solid argumentation. In 17 chapters, divided into four sections, a range of well-known scholars from different disciplines discuss cultural heritage and the future from different standpoints and make valuable observations.
I am convinced that we must engage even further in this discussion and analyse our practices in the present to try to gain insight into the future. It can sound like an impossible task, but it is urgent, as discussed by several authors analysing nuclear waste management. These important discussions about the future are some of main strengths of the book, and, as I see it, one of the most important tasks for the new generations to come to solve this mess that we have created.
One of the weaknesses is the lack of global coverage. There are many examples especially from Europe and United States, some other parts of the world are analysed to a minor extent, such as Asia and Africa for example. Still there are no cases from Latin America whatsoever. This western/European perspective is worrying, the editors state in the introduction that they could not commission any paper of high quality from these regions. This is sad, since there is a lot of research on cultural heritage in Latin America carried out from a range of disciplines not only by archaeologists and anthropologists.
I also would have liked a greater participation from the museum sector in the book. The role of the museums in future making processes can be fundamental, and I am sure that there are many experts this sector that can contribute to this interesting and fundamental discussion on the role of cultural heritage and the future.
However, this edited volume can serve as an excellent guide to start questioning the role of the archaeological practice and heritage in future-making as analysed through different case studies. It is a great overview and, I hope that it will be essential reading to future research in the field of critical heritage studies and other related subjects. I expect that this book will generate a fruitful and healthy debate. Indeed, it is written for an academic community, but I am sure that this book will appeal to a much wider public interested in our future.
I strongly believe that we must reconsider the role of the future in archaeology and the opinions presented here can work as a fresh framework, since the book is melding different opinions and many vivid examples make the reader re-evaluate the future-making process in our society. After reading the various thought-provocative discussions by the different contributors, I am convinced that we must start to engage in these questions of what to preserve for the future in greater length. I think that the contributions in this book can serve as an excellent introduction for forthcoming studies about our cultural heritage.
Córdoba, 25 August 2021
Reilly, M. 2019. Futurity, Time, and Archaeology. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 6(1): 1–15.
Waterton, E. and S. Watson (eds.) 2015. The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Heritage Research. Palgrave Macmillan, London.
(A Spanish version of this review was published in Revista del Museo de Antropología 15 (2), 2022: 157-160)