Posts Tagged ‘cultural heritage’

UNESCO Chair Symposium

Thursday, November 24th, 2022

On 24 November, Anders Högberg, Professor of Archaeology and member of the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures, represented our Chair in a Global Symposium arranged by Ted Fuller at the UNESCO Chair on Responsible Foresight for Sustainable Development at University of Lincoln. The symposium was arranged ahead of UNESCO World Futures Day 2022.

Presentations were made by researchers from all over the world, dealing with aspects on social entrepreneurship, sustainability and futures literacy. It was interesting to see researchers from various academic disciplines can coming together to discuss future related topics.

Anders Högberg

Anders Högberg, Professor of Archaeology UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures

Review by Kate Croll

Saturday, April 9th, 2022

Holtorf, C. and Högberg, A. (eds). 2021. Cultural Heritage and the Future. New York: Routledge. 279 pp. ISBN 978-1-138-82901-5 (paperback).

Reviewed by Kathryn D. Croll, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Email: crollkathryn@gmail.com .

As an archaeologist from a developing country with a background in heritage management, I was intrigued by this book for two reasons: how heritage practitioners elsewhere think of and conceptualize the future and, what this book could add to heritage management and preservation in Africa. The editors acknowledge a crucial flaw in the book in the introduction – that significant areas of the world are not represented in the book. Indeed, almost all of the case studies presented are from the developed world which is in a position to be future-facing and able to think of future heritages. However, the concepts and initiatives raised in this book can be applied to multiple contexts and multiple heritages.

The first section of the book is critical of treating heritage as a “gift” to the future because this treatment assumes that future generations will be “grateful” to us for preserving heritage. Rather, we cannot know what future generations would want from heritage, if anything at all. This book also raises important questions, such as why a specific piece of heritage should be preserved for future generations. In trying to answer these kinds of questions, it is stressed that there is no, and can be no, one-size-fits-all scenario. It is also emphasized that viewing heritage preservation as being on a continuum and developing conjunctive heritage preservation strategies are important for building a framework for “future heritage”.

The inclusion of intangible and living heritage in discussion of future heritage is essential as it is through these kinds of heritage that heritage is formed and continually produced and reproduced. The discussion around Chinese living heritage by Li (Chapter 4) provides a different (i.e. non-Western) perspective on heritage creation and production and shows that the different heritage sectors should learn from each other and use each other’s knowledge to aid with curating heritage for the future.

The criticism by Gonzalez-Ruibal (Chapter 5) that developed countries excessively curate, list and plan preservation and conservation of heritage sites is refreshing, as is the assertion that heritage (both tangible and intangible) is being rapidly destroyed in war-torn countries (which tend to be developing countries). The inundation of the UNESCO world heritage sites list with sites from developed countries reinforces the idea that the West is more developed and more capable of heritage protection. Gonzalez-Ruibal’s suggestion that we allow heritage sites to undergo change and renewal makes space for thinking of multiple futures and allows for more flexible management that is able to adapt to different futures and different future generations’ perspectives on heritage. This ties in with Dixon’s (Chapter 6) study on incomplete or unfinished buildings which at times can represent uncertainty in societies – these unfinished structures, modern or historical, can be used or reused today and in the future and need not be left unfinished or unused.

The third part of the book deals with ‘Armageddon heritage’ – heritage that has been created as a result of Cold War fears as well as heritage in the form of nuclear waste. The consideration of nuclear waste and its safe disposal ties in with concepts of treating heritage on a continuum and as renewable and that meanings and values ascribed to heritage (both tangible and intangible) shift and change over time. The suggestion by Joyce (Chapter 11) that we heritage professionals “operate with the assumption that people are universally concerned with their futures, including distant ones” is important because, as I have already stated, not everyone is in the position to consider the future, especially when the present is difficult enough. This assumption is also one that heritage practitioners operating in developing countries need to consider when developing heritage preservation and conservation plans because the needs of the present may outweigh the needs of the future.

This theme of the consideration of current and future needs runs through this book and is particularly apparent in the last part of the book. The final section deals with sustainability and the fluidity of the future and heritage. The idea that heritage should both serve the needs of people today and tomorrow is critical, and the final chapters emphasize that protecting heritage needs to be sustainable and cater to multiple possible needs of the future – if at all possible.

Ultimately, this book is a useful guide to all heritage practitioners from archaeologists to heritage site managers because it provides a guide for how to think about the future in a broad sense – that it is changeable and fluid and that the way we think about heritage today should be as well. Grounding heritage future thinking in studies from other fields which are already looking into how the future is formulated will allow for better articulation of future thinking. Lastly, more case studies from a broader range of countries and contexts would be a useful addition to heritage future thinking. As it stands, the book is lacking indigenous perspectives on heritage conservation and protection but the concepts and initiatives raised in this book regarding the future of heritage should lead to more studies and the inclusion of other perspectives. Importantly, thinking of heritage as fluid and changeable allows for the applicability of future-thinking in multiple heritage contexts.

Cultural Heritage and Wellbeing

Thursday, March 24th, 2022


As part of the EUniWell Open Lecture Series, Prof. Cornelius Holtorf presented on 24 March 2022 on

“Cultural Heritage, Well-being and the Future”


Cultural heritage is often assumed to be of timeless value. But over recent decades, cultural heritage has been fundamentally reconceptualised in global policies. Whereas for about two centuries, cultural heritage was usually appreciated as a tangible token of collective histories, usually connected to ideas linked to Romantic Nationalism, now we see a different paradigm gradually taken over: cultural heritage is increasingly valued in relation to the intangible impacts and uses it has for specific communities. In this context, the concept of wellbeing has become central, and I will give a few concrete examples what that means for cultural heritage. Taking this development even further, cultural heritage in global contexts is today most commonly addressed within the framework of sustainable development. Yet political bodies such as the UN and national governments (even those embracing wellbeing) are still locked into older perceptions and often fail to embrace fully the ‘new’ cultural heritage. The UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures is contributing to changing this by focusing on how cultural heritage can best benefit future generations.

The lecture was recorded and will be available online soon.

All change please!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Cornelius Holtorf presented a paper on “All change please: cultural heritage and sustainability,” for a virtual conference on International collaboration in a digital era – Fostering innovative minds for the future as part of the Swedish-Japanese co-project MIRAI 2.0 (9 June 2021). One of the aims of this initiative is to strengthen collaboration between Swedish and Japanese universities.

In his talk for ca 40 attendees, Holtorf emphasised the significance of culture and cultural heritage for sustainability and innovation.  The other contributions in the Sustainability section were from the natural sciences or dealt with policy and technology concerning the natural world. The other sections of the conference were about Ageing, Artificial Intelligence, Materials Science, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

It is time for the humanities (and the field of culture) to enter larger contexts of discussion about important issues!

European Cultural Heritage Green Paper

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

Today, I have been attending the launch webinar of the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper with a high-level panel including Mariya Gabriel (European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth), Teresa Patricio (President of ICOMOS), Hermann Parzinger (President of Europa Nostra), Dace Malbarde (MEP, Vice-Chair of Committee on Culture and Education), Andrew Pots, (Coordinator of the Climate Heritage Network and main author of the Green Paper), and almost 600 attendees. Mariya Gabriel reiterated that culture and heritage are part of “the soul of Europe”.

The paper was initiated because the European Green Deal turned out not to make substantial references to culture or heritage.

My question to the panel was this: 

To what extent is cultural heritage not just an asset for the European Green Deal but might also be a liability? How should cultural heritage policy and management develop to maximise the opportunities and minimise any risks for the future?

This is the sort of question we need to ask as and when we think seriously about heritage futures. Andrew Potts acknowledged the problem in his reply, stating that “culture informs the current unsustainable consumption and production patterns. So culture is a part of the solution and a part of the problem.”

Free review copies available

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

We offer 10 free paperback copies of the following volume for review:

Cultural Heritage and the Future. Edited by Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg. 300 pp. Routledge 2021.

Drawing on case studies from around the world, Cultural Heritage and the Future argues that cultural heritage and the future are intimately linked and that the development of futures thinking should be a priority for academics, students and those working in the wider professional heritage sector.

Click here for more information about the book and the opportunity of open access to the editors’ comprehensive introductory paper on “Cultural heritage as a futuristic field”  (select “preview pdf”).

10 review copies (sent free of charge) are now available to emerging professionals from the Global South (low- and middle-income countries). If in doubt apply and make a case. To qualify for selection send a short text (max 1 page) stating who you are and why you are interested in reading the book.

Reviews should offer a critical assessment rather than mere description, be 500-1,000 words long and submitted within three months of receipt of the book. Manuscripts will be copy edited, may be shortened, and have to comply with normal publishing requirements. We welcome critical reviews and will edit for clarity and length but not for content. Submission of your manuscript implies our (non-exclusive) right of publication on a dedicated webpage created by Linnaeus University including full acknowledgment of your authorship. Access to all reviews will be from here.

–> Send your application to unesco-heritage-futures@lnu.se by 16 April 2021.

Light from darkness: Reminding forgotten heritage

Monday, March 1st, 2021

To start a dialogue about the long-term oppression and reminding forgotten heritage of the Baluch community (an ethnic group living mainly in southeastern Iran and Pakistan), I tweeted a thread (in Persian) about a man called Mullah Mohammad Patty Rigi, who we interviewed in 2017. The thread was seen on Twitter 300344 times, was interacted with 104350 times, liked 6991 times (also liked 40740 times on Instagram and seen on Telegram), and was shared by many independent Persian media. Baluch people have been the subject of oppression and discrimination for more than six decades. Years of discrimination have resulted in complicated economic and social issues.

The unrest erupted on 22 February in Saravan city, southeast Iran, after police forces shot local fuel traders who transfer fuel to Pakistan for a very small amount of money. Internet and phone lines are partly cut off, and the news people can spread from the region is strictly limited. Regarding the unrest in Saravan, it is of note that the ethnicity (Baluch) and religion (Sunni) of the protesters have been regarded as a threat by the government for years. In this regard, groups of people, as well as some politicians, media agents, and even opposition figures, started to reproduce labels such as ‘threats to the nation’ and ‘smugglers’ against Baluch protesters on social media.

The difference between the unrest in remote places with the unrest in the big cities is that the authorities have propagated for years against the various ethnicities and communities living in those areas and have labeled them the threats to national security. The long-term propaganda against diversity has deprived the Iranian people of their historical national feeling. According to the notion developed by some thinkers such as Isaiah Berlin, ancient people living in Iran and also in the Arab world cherished an ancient type of integration which can be elucidated under the name of ‘national feeling’. Seemingly, the modern governments, alongside colonialism, ruined the ancient integration by endorsing the nationalistic agenda, which ignores diversity.

Omran Garazhian and I had a project to examine diversity in the Museum of Zahedan(center of Sistan and Baluchestan province)and have met and interviewed local tribal chiefs, intellectuals, and ordinary people while working at the museum. The project was finally stopped by the authorities. Nevertheless, our investigations gave us an opportunity to encounter and study an unknown culture.

I believe that historical, non-nationalist thinking can be invoked in current political debate with the purpose of the liberation of the oppressed. So, I tried to open up a discussion about the forgotten heritage of the Baluch people by reminding Mullah Mohammad Patty Rigi and his services. He was one of the decision-makers on behalf of the Rigi tribe in the mission for reviewing the India-Iran border after the independence of Pakistan. Mullah was ignored by authorities after the 1979 revolution due to his religion (Sunni), ethnicity, and close relations with some agents of the Pahlavi regime (1925-1979). When we met him, he was 96 and lived in a very small room in a marginalized district in Mirjaveh city. His careful work in the mission reminds me of another forgotten heritage, the historical warriors of the same ethnicity who stood against British colonialism.

According to the comments, many people were particularly enthusiastic to know about the process of oblivion and ignorance of the Baluch anti-colonial warriors and tribes. it seems that speaking about the forgotten heritage of oppressed communities might prepare the ground for the rise of more discussions about the governmental nationalist approach and the long-term oppression of cultural diversity in Iran. Besides, there are still many questions: Has the tweet been seen because it mentions the borders of the nation or because it mentions a person who has the potential to be recognized as a national hero? Or, in contrast, was the tweet seen so many times because it revealed a long-term historical ignorance?

Without further dialogues with ordinary people, these questions will be left unanswered.

Photo: Mullah Mohammad Patty Rigi, 2017 (photo by Leila Papoli-Yazdi)
Leila Papoli-Yazdi is a visiting researcher in the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures, Linnaeus University.

Interview with Cornelius Holtorf

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Now available: Britta Rudolff’s interview (27 min) with Cornelius Holtorf on “heritage futures”, recorded as part of Britta’s teaching in the Introduction to Heritage Site Management Masters course at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg (28 January 2021).

Popular academic papers

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

Cornelius Holtorf’s article “Embracing change: how cultural resilience is increased through cultural heritage” has been very popular. Since its publication two years ago it has attracted more than 9,000 viewers on the publisher’s online forum. According to the same site, it is now the third most-read paper in the journal World Archaeology (since start of the statistics in 2011).

The paper No future in archaeological heritage management?, co-authored by Anders Högberg, Cornelius Holtorf, Sarah May and Gustav Wollentz in World Archaeology in 2017, has attracted more than 6,000 viewers and holds place 9 in the same list.

Cultural heritage and the Future – the book is out!

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Now published with Routledge:

Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg (eds) 2021, Cultural Heritage and the Future. London and New York: Routledge. 290 pp. eBook/pbk/hbk

Preview and table of content available here.

Cultural heritage and the future is a field of research and practice that has been developing over the past few years. The present volume was originally devised in 2012, related to a session on the same topic which we co-organized for the First Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The volume contains a wide range of contributions discussing examples from many parts of the world that raise important issues about the interrelations between cultural heritage and the future. Taken as a whole, we believe that the book will contribute significantly to building capacity in futures thinking and futures literacy among researchers and practitioners throughout the heritage sector.