Conference: AAA, Cultural Heritage, Rights, and Democratic Practice

On November 14 I participated in the session “Cultural Heritage, Rights, and Democratic Practice” at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose (CA), a huge conference attended by 6500 scholars. It considered the bond between heritage and rights, i.e. the claims and obligations that link the present and past. Specifically, focus was set on how “heritage rights are often invoked vis-à-vis democratic political institutions”, and how they are supported through democratic participatory approaches. The whole day session, with 13 speakers, was expertly organized by Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels (University of Maryland), who has just published a book related to the session theme and Jon Daehnke (University of California).

Based on this theme, I and Herdis Hølleland (who was there in spirit but not in person) decided to draw on our research about the Scandinavian far right, asking : What happens when far-right parties enter into national parliaments, or even governments, in advanced democracies with progressive views on heritage and multiculturalism? Unlike many studies dealing with the need for, and the benefits of heritage democratization measures, our key point was that we better be aware of who we are really empowering when we speak about “the people”. Based on our study of state budgets and parliamentary propositions by far-right parties in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, it is clear that their main heritage priorities and the language used to argue for them do not differ much from the establishment parties. What makes their discourse on heritage parallel from that of the other parties and governance institutions in these countries, is that their initiatives are carefully circumscribed by a very narrow concept of “the people”. Therefore, while their aims may benefit the heritage sector in terms of funding (at the cost of institutions dealing with contemporary culture), they may simultaneously and silently limit the notion of heritage and what it means to belong in society.

Blog post on Science Nordic
Full abstract:

Bringing Heritage Back to the People: The Cultural Politics of the Scandinavian Far-right
Coauthors: Elisabeth Niklasson – Stanford University; Herdis Hølleland – Norwegian Institute of Cultural Heritage Research
Presenter: Elisabeth Niklasson – Stanford University
As political polarization deepens in Europe and the US, parties on the alt-, hard- and far right have seized on the potential of heritage as a vehicle to display dissatisfaction with the present, becoming advocates of ‘saving our common past’. By characterizing their efforts as a ‘cultural struggle’, claiming that the very existence of the majority is threatened by and cannot co-exist with other social categories, they have framed anti-immigration agendas – about who has a right to reside in Westerns societies – in terms of heritage and cultural belonging. This paper examines what happens when such parties enter into national parliaments, or even governments, in advanced democracies with progressive views on heritage and multiculturalism. Using Scandinavia as a case study, it discusses potential effects on heritage governance and on perceptions of what it means to be Swedish, Danish or Norwegian. It also addresses the precarious situation that arises when the far-right starts arguing for more funding for national heritage institutions, and when their slogans – invoking ‘the people’s right to heritage’ – paraphrase and take advantage of long standing socio-liberal aims to democratize heritage.

Bild_1

Advertisements

One thought on “Conference: AAA, Cultural Heritage, Rights, and Democratic Practice

Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Herdis Hølleland and commented:
    Researcher partner Elisabeth Niklasson reporting from the “Cultural Heritage, Rights, and Democratic Practice” at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose (CA) where she presented a paper based on our research on heritage and the Scandinavian far-right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: