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The making of post/colonial heritage: Exploring the politics and practices...

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University of Birmingham

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Birmingham, England B15 2TT

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The making of post/colonial heritage: Exploring the politics and practices of valuing heritage in postcolonial societies

An international research seminar held at the University of Birmingham, 18th September 2017

Few societies in the world remain unaffected by the ongoing cultural processes of dealing with the legacies of the colonial empires which grew up from the 15th century onwards, and which have come to see their demise in the period following WWII. Amongst the wide range of changes which it gives rise to at global as well as national and local levels, political decolonisation and the continual cultural process of defining and grappling with the postcolonial condition cause reappraisals of the heritage of the formerly colonised as well as the former colonisers. The process of making a post/colonial heritage for the present touches on the changing perceptions, valuations and uses of indigenous and precolonial heritage as much as on ways of relating to the heritage of the colonial encounter itself, and postcolonial ways of processing it.

This seminar aims to investigate how post/colonial heritage-making becomes part of the processes of postcolonial identity construction and of the continual unfolding of relations between the formerly colonised and former colonisers. It aims to theorise the practices and politics behind assessments of which aspects of both tangible and intangible heritage to value, keep or discard in postcolonial societies, and how to recognise, promote, use and manage assets defined as a heritage of ongoing value. National policies and institutions serve to select and protect officially sanctioned heritage, while unofficial perceptions and uses of heritage from below may have their own agendas that can agree or disagree with official presentations of heritage; and transnational processes such as heritage tourism, migration, and repatriation of objects act as links that continue to tie together the heritage of former colonisers and formerly colonised.

The seminar will explore the many and overlapping arenas in which the making of post/colonial heritage takes place, with a view to bring out the intersections, synergies and contestations that take place within and between them. It aims to bring together researchers from the humanities and social sciences across geographical and methodological lines, taking a multidisciplinary and global perspective to explore the politics and practices of defining, managing, valuing and using heritage in the postcolonial context.

The seminar is organized by the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage and the Postcolonial Birmingham Research Network, and is open to both postgraduate researchers and more established scholars.


The confirmed keynote speakers are:

Paul Basu, professor, the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS

‘Decolonising heritage in West Africa. A contradiction in terms?’


Sarah Longair, Lecturer, School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln:

'The Elephant in the Room: encountering material worlds of colonial memory'


Other presenters:

Aidatul Bakri, PhD, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham: The Representation of Postcolonial Identity: A Case Study of ‘Street Of Harmony’, George Town World Heritage Site, Penang

Richard Bigambo, PhD, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham: The Management of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Post-Colonial Tanzania

Paul Jackson, International Development Department, School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham: Post-colonial conflict and policies as colonial heritage: examples from East Africa.

Helle Jorgensen, lecturer, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham: Challenges in preserving and presenting colonial French heritage in India: The case of Puducherry

Sam Kocheri, PhD, Department of Modern Languages, University of Birmingham: The Bible as a postcolonial legacy in India

Lucie Ryzova, lecturer, Department of History, University of Birmingham

Berny Sèbe, senior lecturer, Department of Modern Languages, University of Birmingham: Desert fortifications as national heritage: examples from Algeria and Kazakhstan

Walter Bruyere-Ostells, Sciences-Po, Aix-en-Provence

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