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.
Deliberate Heritage: Difference and Disagreement After Charlottesville
Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland. Her work integrates archaeological and sociocultural anthropology around issues of cultural heritage, focusing in particular on the transnational relations of heritage practice in international economic development, human rights, democracy building, and responses to global climate change. Her recent book is Mobilizing Heritage: Anthropological Practice and Transnational Prospects (2018, University Press of Florida), and she is co-editor of Heritage Keywords: Rhetoric and Redescription in Cultural Heritage (2015, University Press of Colorado) and Making Roman Places: Past and Present (2012, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplement Series).
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Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels; Deliberate Heritage: Difference and Disagreement After Charlottesville. The Public Historian 1 February 2019; 41 (1): 121–132. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2019.41.1.121
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