Chair on Heritage Futures

Kärnavfallsfrågan i media


Idag tar den Svenska regeringen beslutet om slutförvar för kärnavfall.

I det sammanhanget blev Cornelius Holtorf flera gånger de senaste dagarna intervjuat om långtidsminne av slutförvaret och kärnavfall. Anders Högberg intervjuades i Svenska Dagbladet.

Radio P4 Kalmar (27 jan 22): Så ska man kommunicera med svenskarna 100 000 år i framtiden

Radio P1 Studio Ett (26 jan 22): Hur ska slutförvaringen kommuniceras till eftervärlden?

TT 24 & 29 jan 22: Minibladet, Norrländska Socialdemokraten, Södermanlands Nyheter, Mariestads-Tidningen (2 feb 2022), Ny Teknik, Nya Wermlands-Tidningen, Nerikes Allehanda, Katrineholms Kuriren, Motala & Vadstena Tidning, Enköpings-Posten (31 jan 22), Aftonbladet, Dagens Näringsliv, E55, Helsingborgs Dagblad Premium, MSN, Sydsvenskan Premium, Göteborgs-Posten, Norran, Piteå-Tidningen, Vestmanlands Läs Tidning, Barometern (29 jan 22), Gefle Dagblad (27 jan 22), Västerbottens kuriren, Folkbladet Västerbotten (26 jan 22), Sydsvenska dagbladet (25 & 29 jan 22), Skånska dagbladet (24 jan 22), Nyheter 24 (24 & 29 jan 22). Hur pratar vi kärnavfall med framtiden?

Svenska Dagbladet (29 jan 22): Frågan om slutförvaret: Ska framtiden varnas?

Upsala Nya Tidning (3 feb 22)

Sveriges radio (5 Feb 2022), Juniornyheterna Special: Hur pratar man med framtiden?

The Heritage-Climate Paradox


In my presentation on “Risks for Peace Due to Promotion of Heritage”, given on 26 January 2022 at the global ICCROM conference Climate.Culture.Peace in a session on Culture, Climate and Drivers of Conflict, I introduced the Heritage-Climate Paradox in its two dimensions:

  1. Whereas heritage is often about conservation and timeless values, the climate crisis is about change and the transformation of our lives and many people’s livelihoods.
  2. Whereas heritage is about making cultural distinctions in space, contrasting US with THEM (often in terms of nations or ethnic groups), the climate crisis requires us to find global solutions and to promote global solidarity.

Here is the full abstract of my paper:

As the significance of culture and cultural heritage is gradually entering high-level discussions concerning sustainable development, I am cautioning against generalizing the view that culture and heritage necessarily benefit mitigation and adaptation related to climate change. Promoting seemingly timeless heritage derived from the past can make necessary transformations of inherited ways of life and livelihoods more difficult. At the same time, perceptions of exclusive cultural heritage may support ethnic pride and social exclusion. Both recent and historical examples show how perceptions and uses of cultural heritage can inflame violent conflicts between different cultural groups over power and territory. Promoting heritage can thus threaten peace and human rights, reduce socio-cultural cohesion and resilience, and effectively become a hinder for global human adaptation.



International UNESCO Chairs Forum on the Futures of Higher Education


24 January

Today, I have been attending International UNESCO Chairs Forum on the Futures of Higher Education. The event was livestreamed on Facebook.

Italy and UNESCO at The Italian Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai, set up the session on a digital arena jointly. It lasted two hours and included a keynote by Mr. Francesc Pedro, Director, UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Futures of Higher Education: Global trends, opportunities and challenges. Two panels followed; 1) Skills for Work and Life and 2) Digitalization and Connectivity. At the end, the Italian UNESCO Chairs for Sustainability made a declaration. Finally, Ms. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO (live from Paris) thanked everyone for participating and made some closing remarks about the role of the UNESCO Chairs as knowledge bases and the importance of relating to change.

My impression of the day was:

Topics discussed were very interesting, especially the part with focus on futures literacy (Panel 1) with Professor Loes Damhoff, UNESCO Chair in Futures Literacy, The Netherlands, Dr. Ziad Said, UNESCO Chair on TVET and Sustainable Development, Qatar, Dr. Willy Ngaka, UNITWIN Network on Literacies, Green Skilling, and Capacity Development for Sustainable Communities in Africa, Uganda:

The moderator Giorgia Ferraro at The Italian Pavilion introduced Professor Loes Damhoff, UNESCO Chair on Futures Literacy, The Netherlands who started with this:

The future does not exist.

The future exists only in our imagination.

Our images of the future that we create have a profound impact on what we do in the present.

How do we prepare ourselves for something that does not exist?

What kind of skills for work and life do we need?

A short summary of the main points by Professor Loes Damhoff: We know three things:

  1. Change is constant
  2. Uncertainty is an aspect of life
  3. Complexity is a part of life

We cannot eliminate uncertainty and complexity. We might need to rethink how we relate to change.

One way to do that is futures literacy. This capability helps you to imagine multiple futures. We use the futures as lenses to look upon what we are doing in the present.

Professor Loes Damhoff concluded: When we plan and prepare for something that is going to happen, we can identify the assumptions that we have, and this means that we can open up for novelty and the unexpected. This is a new mindset for managers, policymakers and students.

We all anticipate – it is global! We need to become future thinkers on all levels of society to meet global challenges!


Professor Loes Damhoff, UNESCO Chair on Futures Literacy, The Netherlands.


I expected more interaction and found out that it was a digital stage that you could listen to and watch. However, the topics were very interesting and it was interesting to see and hear UNESCO Chairs from all over the world! The whole session was recorded and is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFEZIC6Ur3s


Helena Rydén, Ass. UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures at Linnaeus University

Climate Culture Peace

I am participating this week in a conference entitled Climate.Culture.Peace, organised by ICCROM with support of the British Council, among others. Registrations for the conference were completed by 1441 people from 113 countries.

The inaugural session on 24 January, Culture for a Liveable Future, featured contributions by 

  • Webber Ndoro, Director-General, ICCROM
  • Simon Kofe, Minister for Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu
  • Princess Dana Firas, UNESCO Goodwill-Ambassador for Cultural Heritage and President, Petra National Trust, Jordan
  • Ernesto Ottone, Assistant Director-General for Culture, UNESCO
  • Alexandra Xanthaki, United Nations Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
  • Tim Badman, Head of Heritage, Culture, Youth, IUCN

In the following session, “What are the Links between Climate, Culture and Peace?”, David Harvey pointed out, intriguingly, that conflict can also be quite ‘sexy’ heritage and that we need to explore ‘pacific’ heritage instead.

My own contribution will be on Wednesday, 26 January, is part of a session on Culture, Climate and Drivers of Conflict, and entitled “Risks for peace due to promotion of heritage.”

University and Museum collaborating


Ulrika Söderström wrote a report assessing the status quo and prospects of collaboration between Kalmar County Museum and Linnaeus University.

Both organisations have collaborated intensively for many years, encompassing teaching, research and research education. The Museum is the largest partner in the Industrial Research School GRASCA of which Söderström herself is a member and which is led by UNESCO Chairholder Cornelius Holtorf. Söderström investigates in her research how cultural heritage and archaeology can be applied in theory and practice to contribute to sustainable urban development. She is affiliated with the Chair too.

Written in Swedish, the report is now available here.

Heritage Futures: A Conversation


Prof. Cornelius Holtorf and Postdoctoral Fellow Annalisa Bolin have a new article out in Journal of Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development (open access), in which they discuss the topic of heritage futures and how to implement futures thinking in heritage studies and practice.

This article explores the concept of “heritage futures”, the role of heritage in managing relations between present and future societies. It assesses how thinking strategically about the future changes, complicates and contextualises practices of heritage. What might an attention to the future bring to work in heritage, and simultaneously, what challenges—both practical and ethical—arise?

This article takes the form of a conversation about the nature of heritage futures and how such a project may be implemented in both heritage practice and field research in heritage studies. The two authors are heritage scholars who integrate heritage futures questions into their research in different ways, and their conversation uncovers potentialities and difficulties in the heritage futures project.

The discussion covers the particular ethical issues that arise when the dimension of time is added to heritage research and practice, including questions of continuism, presentism and specificity. The conversation argues for the importance of considering the future in heritage studies and heritage practice and that this forms a key part of understanding how heritage may be part of building a sustainable present and future.

The future is an under-examined concept within heritage studies, even as heritage is often framed as something to be preserved “for future generations”. But what impact might it have on heritage practice to really consider what this means, beyond the platitude? This article suggests that heritage scholars and practitioners direct their attention to this often-neglected facet of heritage.

Action for World Heritage


In 1 December 2020, Cornelius Holtorf commented on the draft Action Plan for implementing the National World Heritage Strategy of the Swedish National Heritage Board.

In early November, the revised final version of the Action Plan for implementing the National World Heritage Strategy in Sweden was published.

Thanks to our suggestion, the plan mentions a need for increased collaboration between Universities and domains of practice to contribute to knowledge development concerning world heritage work. The UNESCO Chair at Linnaeus University is specifically mentioned to be involved in a survey of expertise on world heritage work available at Swedish Universities, in order to strengthen collaboration between research, education and practice. 



Heritage Beyond Quarantine


The COVID-19 pandemic has to some extent been normalised by now. To a large extent, we have gotten used to it all. Now the time for thorough reflection starts, trying to figure out what actually happened.

Here are my thoughts on “Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Beyond Quarantine: Reflections from Sweden on Covid-19 and Its Consequences,” published by my colleagues in Brazil:

During the years of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2021 thus far), nobody could remain in any real quarantine. The humans of the world were reminded daily of the global progress (or otherwise) of one virus, several vaccines, and numerous health systems. As always, archaeology could not escape its present. The following are my reflections on some issues I had on my mind during the time of the ‘corona crisis’. They reflect my perspective as an archaeologist working on heritage futures who normally travels a lot throughout Europe and beyond, but now remained put in Sweden, working a lot from home and, curiously, attending even more international meetings than before, albeit virtual ones.

Holtorf, Cornelius (2022) Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Beyond Quarantine: Reflections from Sweden on Covid-19 and Its Consequences. Revista de Arqueologia 35(1), 53-68. https://doi.org/10.24885/sab.v35i1.958


Rwandan Solutions to Rwandan Problems: Heritage Decolonization and Community Engagement in Nyanza District, Rwanda


UNESCO Chair postdoctoral fellow Annalisa Bolin, along with David Nkusi of Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy, has published a new article in Journal of Social Archaeology. “Rwandan Solutions to Rwandan Problems: Heritage Decolonization and Community Engagement in Nyanza District, Rwanda” is available in open access. The article investigates how rural communities in Nyanza engage with or are alienated from heritage resources, and explores possibilities for decolonizing heritage management in order to produce more effective and responsive models of management. This is part of building a decolonized future for Rwanda, the article argues, while paying attention to the ethical obligations of heritage-making.

Highlighting the rural district of Nyanza in Rwanda, this article examines community relations to heritage resources. It investigates the possibilities for more ethical, engaged models of heritage management which can better deliver on agendas of decolonization and development. The research finds that Nyanza’s heritage stakeholders highly value heritage’s social and economic roles, but communities are also significantly alienated from heritage resources. In seeking to bridge this gap, heritage professionals utilize a discourse of technocratic improvement, but community leaders emphasize ideas of ownership, drawing on higher state-level discourses of self-reliance and “homegrown solutions.” They mobilize the state’s own attempts to filter developing, decolonizing initiatives through Rwandan frameworks to advocate for communities’ right to participate in heritage. This local agency offers a roadmap for utilizing favorable aspects of existing governance to push heritage management toward community engagement and decolonization.

An abridged and adapted version of this article, focusing especially on decolonization, has also appeared in SAPIENS magazine