- Is Canadian Heritage Studies Critical?
In this review, we use recent publications in the field of Canadian heritage studies to consider the roles of critical theory generally and critical heritage studies in particular. In fall 2016, the editors of the present special issue on critical heritage studies in Canada, Susan Ashley and Andrea Terry, called out to the heritage community to help compile a list of books for this review essay. In total, the list contained 14 texts: Allen and Blair (2015), Ashley (2013), Butler and Lehrer (2016), Gordon (2016), Gosselin and Livingstone (2016), Llewellyn, Freund, and Reilly (2015), McTavish (2013), Morgan (2016), Morton (2016), Neatby and Hodgins (2012), Onciul (2015), Phillips (2011), Terry (2015), and Gordon-Walker (2016).
Of the 14 books on the list, 7 (50%) concerned museums, 6 (43%) had the term "museum" in the title, 2 (14%) focused on Indigenous heritage in the context of museums, and 1 (7%) contained the word "tourism" in the title. Of the 14, 9 (64%) had either "Canada" or "Canadian" in the title, and 12 (86%) were published in Canada. Of those 12, 5 (42%) were published by McGill-Queen's University Press, 3 (25%) by University of British Columbia Press, and 3 (25%) by University of Toronto Press.
To reduce the number of books to a manageable size (i.e., the 4 texts reviewed here), we first set an arbitrary three-year cut-off date of 2013, which dropped the list to 11. To ensure maximum representation, we then decided to select only edited books, reducing the number to 5. We further limited our selection by choosing only [End Page 342] one museum book, of which 2 remained (i.e., Butler and Lehrer 2016; Gosselin and Livingstone 2016). Of those, we selected the more general text, leaving us with the 4 books reviewed here: Material Cultures in Canada, edited by Thomas Allen and Jennifer Blair (2015); Diverse Spaces: Identity, Heritage and Community in Canadian Public Culture, edited by Susan L.T. Ashley (2013); Museums and the Past: Constructing Historical Consciousness, edited by Viviane Gosselin and Phaedra Livingstone (2016); and The Canadian Oral History Reader, edited by Kristina R. Llewellyn, Alexander Freund, and Nolan Reilly (2015).
As illustrated in Tables 1 through 4, the four texts represent a total of 60 contributions, including introductory chapters, epilogues, postscripts, and afterwords. Each volume has in either its introductory or concluding chapter a detailed summary of the contents of each chapter and makes links between theories, themes, methods, and conclusions presented by all authors. Therefore, it is not our goal here to summarize the texts' contents as one would for a conventional book review.
Instead, in the first section below, we provide contextual information for each volume and highlight what we felt were strengths and weaknesses in each collection, with some specific reference to chapters that stood out to us. As a framework for analysis, we then consider each in light of the interests and mandate of critical heritage studies derived from recent treatments of the subject (Harrison 2013; Smith 2004, 2006; Winter 2013, 2014; Winter and Waterton 2013; Witcomb and Buckley 2013), especially the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) manifesto (Smith 2012). We conclude by offering our response to the question posed in our title: Is Canadian heritage studies critical?
Diverse Spaces (Ashley 2013), foregrounds the role of place in heritage. The published result of a conference on sites of public culture in Canada, the volume features authors representing a range of disciplines and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of place. The bounded context of Canada means nationality and nationalism feature to some extent in every article. As a quintessential...