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Past courses/seminars organized by CHS

Critical Curatorship: Objects, Archives and Collections in Ethnographic Museums

PhD workshop 19 - 23 May, 2014

Collections stores of the Swedish National Museums of World Culture, Gothenburg

Critical Heritage Studies at Gothenburg University and the Swedish National Museums of World Culture, Gothenburg are pleased to announce a one-week PhD workshop to be held from 19th to 23rd May, 2014 in critical curatorship.

Although there has been intense review of ethnographic museums and their founding discourses over the past four decades, most often through analysis of exhibitions and public programs, the museological practices surrounding catalogues, archives and object magasins/storehouses have been subject to less scrutiny. This week long workshop in critical curatorship will skip over an examination of ethnographic museums’ much analysed public interface and instead go ‘behind the scenes’ to look at the deep ideologies rooted in collections and their archives and catalogues. Using historic material from the stores, students will explore the complications and possibilities of ethnographic objects within the shifting politics of the contemporary world.


The program is conceived as a series of masterclasses in practice and critical thinking, where workshop participants will reflect on: embedded (and submerged) colonial narratives; the possibility of decolonization; the reality of epistemic diversity; the politics of knowledge production; and the representation of conflicts and contests in the collections’ histories. Across the course of the week students will participate in a series of seminars, discussions and practice studios with renowned semiotician Walter Mignolo, Sami museum of Ájtte curator Sunna Kuoljok, acclaimed museum director and commentator Jette Sandahl and head of the Curatorial Department at the Tropenmuseum of the Netherlands, Wayne Modest.

During the week students will be required to make a 20 minute presentation of their thesis topic, attend the series of masterclasses and seminars and participate in the hands-on curating studios.



Travel and accommodation


The Dimensions of Heritage Value
PhD course, Gothenburg, Sweden

Critical Heritage Studies in cooperation with The Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology

Sep 16, 2013 - Sep 20, 2013, University of Gothenburg, The Ågren Residence


The most defining and enduring aspect of the 1972 World Heritage Convention was its novel concept of 'universal heritage value'. At the time the idea was to keep the definition of universal value as open and fluid as possible. However, the dominant bureaucratic and ideological framing of applications and procedural advice given led to the bias towards the monumental, art-aesthetic and architectural that subsequently resulted in the WHC being heavily criticised for its 'Eurocentrism', with an excessive focus on the monumental as expressions of genius, as well consolidating UNESCO’s role as the legitimator of global heritage (privileging a bias towards the nation/ states party as the originator and final arbiter of what constituted 'cultural property'). Following the recognition of the limitations of such 'heritage values' a shift occurred towards alternative forms of 'heritage value' based upon typicality rather than uniqueness. New heritage typologies - 'cultural landscapes', 'intangibility', 'urban historical landscapes' etc - was acccepted and has had consequences or the conceptualization of heritage value.

As part of the response to criticism, the idea of what constitutes 'heritage' has expanded rapidly from individual buildings and monuments to a broader idea of human creativity – both tangible and intangible. A focus on physical entities alone is no longer possible and the management of heritage should recognise context as a living and evolving environment. Also the views of experts and 'expert knowledges' has come under greater scrutiny and contestation. Democratising heritage and the recognition of diversity have become part of the general discourse of an interdisciplinary field. Complexity would therefore be cited as a watchword for an ethical approach to understanding heritage value as central to a values–based management approach.

How these aims are or will be implemented and by whom remain broad and visionary in scope at the moment. The course will be devoted to understanding both the intellectual legacies of these developments and their future effects.

The course will be focusing on two general and interrelated themes, where the applicant relates two preferably one of the two in her/his applications:

1. Intangible/immaterial heritage value
This theme will focus on the immaterial dimensions of heritage value, specifically health/mind/fantasy and identity in relation to 'outer worlds' - as well as how immaterial heritage is given fixity and form as substance and through material objectification. Immateriality has a longer term salience in philosophical terms (cf Whitehead) but in this context it relates to a conceptual crisis in the official heritage discourse. The original 1972 convention idea of heritage value was based on experience of cultural loss but recent arguments address fears of over abundance of the past and uncertainty about its value and efficacy. In the last decade there has been a significant shift of attention to issues of wellbeing and health, to understanding the concept of loss of identity as well as fears of an over abundance of the past, and to inquiries into the shift from material science to cultural values. Notions of health and well being are culturally conditioned and transmitted by perceptions of the body, emotions and morality, and recently the idea of heritage value has been employed particularly in post conflict conditions dealing with post trauma, the restoration of dislocations in space and place and needs for commemoration. Intangible heritage has also led to a revitalising of what had previously been designated as folklore studies and 'folkloric' has become recognised as ’living cultures' very much embedded in the present both as the continuation of knowledge and practices associated with skill, performance and cultural well being. New forms of documentation and the recording of intangible heritage have also become available through the expansion of digital technologies consistent with the promotion of cultural diversity and the protection of indigenous knowledges.

2. The economy of heritage
This theme will focus on the materiality and commodification of heritage value, with a specific focus on the forms of transformation of heritage value. The argument that heritage value can be transformed into economic value takes many forms and certainly the idea of conservation and preservation of the past has for long been seen as sustaining the market in antiquities, auction houses and design. Heritage and development includes studies of advocacy organisations both as public participation in and protest to heritage development and to map the diverse ‘actors’ in such operational networks. From macro to micro contexts we may examine how, for example, the World Bank, UN/ UNESCO, the Getty, the Aga Khan Foundation, interact with other ‘actors’ such as assemblies of Indigenous Peoples/ Survival International and national. Heritage as economic value treats the creation of heritage as a resource for sustainable development and may address the evaluation of tourism; the circulation of heritage value through auctions and antiquity sales as well as the accumulation and storage of value through archives, conservation, documentation and the role of guidebooks and travelogues in isolating and identifying value.

Course work

The course work will be structured as short lectures with established researchers and full day seminar sessions with the work of the studnets in focus. The second day will be a full day excursion. Before the course starts, each PhD student will prepare a paper for pre-circulation, addressing her or his research project in relation to one of the two general course themes. The maximum length of the paper is 10 pages (Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5). In the course of the seminars, each paper will be allotted c. 1 hour, beginning with the student presenting a 15-minute summary of its contents. One of the other PhD students will be selected in advance as a discussant and comment for about 10 minutes, after which she or he will then chair an open discussion on the paper for app. 30 minutes. The etablished researchers will give lectures as well as participate in the discussion of PhD presentations.

Mike Rowlands (UCL), Rodney Harrison (UCL), Lynn Meskell (Stanford), Beverly Butler (UCL), Cornelius Holtorf (Linnæus University). Additional researchers will be involved, mainly as discussants.

Professor Mike Rowlands, University College London, UK.

1 month or 7 ECTS

Location, travel and costs


Lisa Karlsson Blom, Project Assistant, Critical Heritage Studies, Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Phone +46 (0)768 078 342.

Lene Melheim, Administrative Officer, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Box 1008 Blindern, N-0315 Oslo, Norway. Phone: (+47) 22841957, Mobile (+47) 99755435, Fax: (+47) 22841901.




Page Manager: Jenny Högström Berntson|Last update: 6/18/2014

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