"Maverick Heritages. Ugliness, Discomfort and Illegality in the Political and Social Construction of Heritage" Session

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Association of Critical Heritage Studies
Second biannual Conference, Canberra, 2-4th December 2014
Call for Papers for "Maverick Heritages. Ugliness, Discomfort and Illegality in the Political and Social Construction of Heritage" Session.
Cristiana Panella (cristiana.panella@africamuseum.be) Royal Museum for Central Africa
Walter Little (wlittle@albany.edu) University at Albany, SUNY
In this panel, we explore, through an inclusive approach, the social and political constructions of heritage, questioning official heritage liturgies of universal beauty. We question the aesthetic dichotomies of beauty/ugliness, properness (goodness)/moral pollution formality/informality, order/disorder, and cleanliness/dirtiness, among others, that are part of the representations of heritage, regardless of the promotion and branding as national patrimony, world heritage sites, political symbols, and tourism destinations. We include in our discussion, those places of social memory that are outside of official local, national, and international naming organizations' considerations of heritage. Imbricated in these processes are layers of opacity and transparency, rooted in official regulations and customary and common practices, that allow for the heritization of places and concurrent aesthetic and political negotiations of those places by the actors at stake (tourists, vendors, local officials, residents, and others).
The first section of the panel focuses on relationships between regulated places and ‘alien’ actors. Despite most heritage sites being strictly regulated through juridical, deontological or moral norms, ‘unauthorized’ actors (for instance, street vendors, beggars or ‘clandestine’ migrants), if not invading and occupying the sites themselves, place themselves in the public places around heritized places. While such actors tend to be negatively characterized by politicians, city planners, and formal-sector business owners as a blight on the aesthetics of the heritage sites, it is far from clear that those who visit heritage sites and those vendors sell in and near the sites conceive of such a dichotomous relationship. Such dyscrasia generated by the co-habitation of different spheres of value configures the aesthetics of heritage spaces as complexes of social, political, and economic processes. As multifaceted places--from destinations for globetrotting tourists to sites of historical memory--we argue that the practices of representation and daily life of heritage sites does not always reconcile with official state and international institutions' aesthetic representations.
In the second section of the panel we extend our reflections on the structural contradictions imbricated in the circulation of beauty and heritized objects (ancient ‘art’ objects circulating through the international market and ‘heritage’ logos). We investigate the interrelations between opacity and transparency -- the situations establishing ethical and aesthetical taken-for-granted intrinsic values. In particular the panel would show that the sentiment of ‘beauty’ and ‘goodness’ of a given final product (objects, practices, individuals or categories) is directly proportional to the degree of opacity of production stages of products.
Convenors will be pleased to receive papers fitting the parts below:
Part I - The Politics of Aesthetical Truth in Relation to the Anti-Aesthetics of Pollution within Heritage Sites
Throughout the world there are numerous examples of the proper order and organization of places and people being inverted. In heritage sites, despite the dominant discourses of the state, UNESCO and tourism industry, the sense of objects, places, and words can take on counter aesthetics and alternative meanings for political and economic reasons. Here, we explore how political and aesthetical truth is constructed in different heritage domains through a selective concept of aesthetical pollution.
Part II – Social memories of Political Resistance through Places of War and Violence
The aesthetics of beauty, at first glance, appear to be at odds with expressions of political resistance and the reconciliation of war and violence. The memories of beauty and political resistance, however, come into play within heritage sites, be they literally built into the monuments and buildings that commemorate the survivors of political violence and the collective memories of political resistance. This tension between beauty and political resistance, then, is manifested in the social and economic relationships that take place in these sites of historical memory.
Part III - Ontologies of Beauty and Illegality within the Clandestine Trade in heritized objects
The construction of heritage and clandestine art trade are often mutually constituted in heritage sites. This slot focuses on the structural ontological relationships between beauty and Illegality. Here, we question how places are affected by the aesthetics and ethics that serve to brand a place/object, leading to new negotiations of value through alternative concepts of beauty that emerge from the ways that places and objects are heritized and used within logics of tourism and market.