CfP WUN Heritage Workshop

The Role of Heritage during Migration and Displacement

A Symposium and Workshop to be held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Hosted by the WorldWide Universities Network (WUN) Understanding Cultures Global Challenge Group, and the Center for Heritage and Society, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Organized by Elizabeth Brabec, Director, Center for Heritage and Society, and Elizabeth Chilton, Co-ordinator, WUN Understanding Cultures Global Challenge Group

Abstracts to be submitted by 15 April 2017

Heritage in the context of Migration and Displacement

Around the world, millions of people are either currently displaced or will be displaced on a global scale in the coming years due to conflict, and the effects of climate change and other natural disasters.  Even in many seemingly stable communities, the natural, social and cultural landscape will be changing, as natural ecosystems feel the effects of climate change, and communities attempt to integrate those moving into the region.

To date, the majority of the heritage literature in the context of climate change has dealt with the impacts to architecture and monuments.  This is also true of the focus of the effects of armed conflict, for example the $100 million pledged to the protection and repair of historic monuments by French President Hollande in 2016.  In general, the UN, UNESCO, and development bank projects have focused on the protection of tangible heritage, particularly immoveable tangible heritage, in their considerations of threats to cultural heritage in the face of war and climate change. However, there is a desire on the part of a number of scholars to enlarge the scope of heritage beyond preservation.

What is lacking in the research, is a comprehensive approach to the importance, value and use of all types of heritage (moveable and immoveable, tangible and intangible, natural and cultural) to society and the role it plays in reducing the trauma of change and displacement.  A strong sense of heritage has been demonstrated to be a key to a healthy sense of identity in the present, and a means of coping with an uncertain future, leading to a sense of ontological security and overall wellbeing.

Both tangible and intangible heritage play many roles in society: the creation of ontological security, resulting in a reduction of trauma during periods of change; a repository of traditional and indigenous cultural knowledge that provide ways of responding to a changing world; an ordering of physical space that supports social interactions reflective of a culture; the ability to create place anew from relocated or recreated cultural artifacts during periods of displacement.  There has also been little focused research on how the recording, re-establishment and promotion of heritage through digital means could mitigate against the threats to cultural monuments and artifacts, cultural memory, and a core belief system embodied in the cultural stories we tell.