Cultural heritage is often seen as a tool for managing social change, as a mirror that society holds up to itself to make sense of change. In this paper I examine how heritage also mobilizes social change, framing cultural heritage as a persuasive tool in a public sphere of competing interests and claims. Rather than taking the circulation of heritage in the public sphere—across media outlets, social media, and expert networks—as epiphenomenal to its value, I suggest deliberation composes a critical function of cultural heritage, especially under social conditions of deep pluralism, divisive politics, and mass democracy that mark our contemporary era. The public discussions about Confederate commemorations that erupted following the events in Charlottesville in 2017 demonstrate the contests over meaning and proposed actions that reveal the persuasive character of heritage.

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