- Conflict and CommunicationExpanding the field with two new books in heritage studies
Heritage at the Interface and Cuban Cultural Heritage will be of interest to scholars in critical heritage studies and, more broadly, cultural memory studies, as well as practitioners of public history in different national contexts. Both books explore, through micro and macro histories, particular political deployments of historical narratives across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Heritage at the Interface is a multidisciplinary collection that brings together research from leading scholars around familiar questions about heritage as a public practice and a cultural process of meaning-making. The collection adopts the framework of "interface" to explore heritage as a "fluid, partial, and provisional process" (3). Interface might refer to, for example, the contact interface with different and diverse public/s and cultures, the conceptual interface between [End Page 135] community and institutional examples of heritage, and the interface within historical narratives between conflicting interpretations of the past. Many scholars have explored the role of heritage—often deployed by the nation-state—in legitimizing particular identities, ideologies, and power structures, although the focus of this earlier work has been primarily centered on the United Kingdom, United States, and Western Europe.1 This collection expands the reach of heritage studies, with case studies taken from India, China, the Caribbean, Australia, France, America, Germany, Britain, Ireland, and other areas. Overall, the book enters some exciting terrain in the heritage studies literature. It also engages with new and emerging questions in the field of memory studies, particularly those regarding dialogical and pluralistic approaches to heritage and other public history forms that account for multiple and even conflicting interpretations of the past.2 The collection argues that heritage may be a catalyst for more than just conflict (over power); heritage may also harbor potential for positive change and inclusion through cross-cultural communication.
Each chapter offers important new research in heritage studies. Bella Dicks's chapter explores the process by which cultural value is established. She offers useful ideas for analyzing its creation in concrete social contexts—as part of dynamic networks of power that exist at different scales. She advocates for a social grounding to our studies of heritage, rather than a purely discursive frame. This approach is also reflected in Jennifer Iles's chapter on Western Front battlefield tourism, which traces the competing demands of different groups who hold simultaneous claims to a place. Emma Waterton offers new research on heritage tourism and affective identity, emphasizing bodily rather than cognitive thinking, and affect as transpersonal and communicable—moderated through processes of feeling in a heritage context. Waterton examines the moments that visitors experience at Kakadu National Park, analyzing their ability to merge affective registers with moments of cognition: in this case, cognition of the histories of racism and exclusion of Aboriginal people that the place contains. Johanna Mitterhofer explores the ability of heritage practices and discourses to create communities across linguistic or cultural boundaries in multicultural nations. She asks how minority groups negotiate heritage formulated by dominant national populations. Mitterhofer's case studies are initiatives that seek to include minority (migrant) voices and thus offer contrasting heritage interpretations within a wider frame of "Authorized Heritage Discourses."3 [End Page 136]
Other chapters also offer exciting new directions in the critical heritage studies field, including examples of ways in which public history practices can engender inclusion and pluralism. They do so without perpetuating dichotomies of public/private or official/grassroots. A recognition of the complexities of dissonant heritage and competing versions of the past is a large part of this collection. At times, the chapters are held together only thinly by the broad theme of interface. Nonetheless, Heritage at the Interface is a useful collection for scholars of public history, heritage studies, and memory studies more broadly—not least because of the new...