Chair on Heritage Futures

Review by Henrik B. Lindskoug


Cornelius Holtorf & Anders Högberg (eds) 2021 Cultural Heritage and the Future. Routledge, London & New York, xx+ 279pp. ISBN: 978-1-138-82901-5. 

Reviewed by 

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: henrikblindskoug@unc.edu.ar

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

Lärarutbildning och skola i framtiden


Cornelius Holtorf deltog i ett panelsamtal om lärarutbildning och skola som filmades och publicerades i samband med invigning av Universitetskajen Kalmar, 27 augusti 2021.

Panelen samtalar om lärarutbildningen och skolans dåtid, nutid och framtid. Vad kommer vara den viktigaste frågan för lärarutbildningen i framtiden och varför?

New article by Annalisa Bolin on Rwandan heritage and international relationships


The UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures’ Postdoctoral Fellow Annalisa Bolin has recently published “The Strategic Internationalism of Rwandan Heritage“, a fully open-access article in Journal of Eastern African Studies. The article covers heritage diplomacy, shared heritage and repatriation, and how heritage mediates the relationship between Rwanda and Germany:

“Heritage, a practice shot through with political forces, is mobilized by states within their international relationships through methods such as heritage diplomacy. Focusing on the connections between Rwanda and Germany, this article traces how heritage serves as a technique of foreign relations for the Rwandan state. The uses of heritage are shaped by the state’s higher-level political orientations, especially the project of agaciro, which pursues an agenda of increased sovereignty for Rwanda in relation to the rest of the world. This conditions how ‘shared heritage’ and heritage repatriation contribute to establishing strategic alliances and decolonizing, making heritage part of a suite of tools used to advantageously reposition the country in the international arena. The article deepens our understanding of the Rwandan state’s governing techniques and examines heritage’s role as a mediator of international relationships, even for less-powerful nations whose agency is sometimes neglected in discussions of heritage diplomacy.”

Before it is too late?


Cornelius Holtorf presented a paper entitled “Before it is too late? Narrating Nuclear Legacies Beyond Risk” in a session on “Nuclear Narratives” at the STREAMS – Transformative Environmental Humanities conference, organized by KTH, Stockholm (4 August 2021)

Nuclear narratives are most commonly stories of risk, whether that is the risk of radioactive contamination of the environment or, increasingly, the risk of loss of nuclear cultural heritage.

In his paper, Holtorf asked what it could mean to tell nuclear narratives and stories about nuclear cultural heritage that do not feature notions of risk. Such alternative nuclear narratives may be exemplified by pioneering nuclear artist James Acord’s explorations of practices of transmutation and alchemy and by the current political rehabilitation of nuclear energy for mitigating climate change, e.g. in the context of “Greens for nuclear energy“.


Kulturarv för gemensamma framtider


I ett nytt blogginlägg för Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE) diskuterar Gustav Wollentz vad kulturarv kan göra för att öka känslan av tillhörighet i samhället hos nyanlända.

En av hans teser är att kulturarv kan fokusera på gemensamma framtider:

Att kulturarv är framtidsskapande och framtidsorienterat har belysts alltmer i den senaste forskningen, och just där finns också en potential i sammanhang med nyanlända, vilket dessutom tydliggjordes i några av de aktiviteter som genomfördes i projektet. Med utgångspunkt i de meningsskapande processer som kulturarv kan stimulera, går det att rikta blicken framåt. Vi har inte alla en specifik plats historia gemensamt men kanske kan vi bidra till att forma dess framtid tillsammans?

Här syns tydligt ett viktigt område för ‘heritage futures’.