Heritage, Decolonisation and the Field: A Conference

26 January — 27 January 2018 Goodenough College, London

This conference, entitled Heritage, Decolonisation and the Field, was co-organised by the AHRC Heritage Priority Area theme and German Historical Institute of London/Max Weber Stiftung and held in London on 26th and 27th January 2018.

Keynote Speakers Sudeshna Guha (Shiv Nadar University, India) and Daniel J. Sherman (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

The development of heritage as a distinctive, international field of governance regulated through institutions like UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICCROM and the IUCN is closely linked to practices of decolonisation and fieldwork.

Taking cultural heritage alone, anthropologists, archaeologists, architects and engineers worked across the decolonising world in countries like Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan making the development of this new form of governance a reality; so too did experts from area studies, government survey agencies and philanthropic organisations. This work helped to (re-)constitute the fields that these practitioners were connected to, creating new disciplinary assemblages, new forms of knowledge, and rearranging the relationship of fieldworkers to the places where they laboured.

At the same time, this process was not simply a product of decolonisation; in fact, it had its origins in knowledge practices which were often closely connected to practices of colonial governance and the complex administrative relationship between colonies and metropoles. These older, colonial practices were simultaneously reconstituted and entangled within these newly emergent disciplinary assemblages and knowledge practices as decolonisation gathered pace.

Yet despite increased interest in the histories and practice of cultural and natural heritage, there is little understanding of how their interconnection with decolonisation and the field actually took place.

  • How did these three things work together to make heritage governance a reality?
  • How did decolonisation shape the form of that governance and the sorts of fieldwork that took place?
  • How, vice versa, did these forms of fieldwork and governance shape decolonisation, and how also did colonial practices play a role?

Moreover, how (if at all) do the answers to such questions vary across time and space?

If we are to understand the relationship between heritage, decolonisation and the field—and, by extension, the development of heritage governance itself—providing answers to these questions is a necessity, as is considering the methodologies which we might use to make these answers effective.


Date: Friday 26th January

Venue: William Goodenough House (Large Common Room), Mecklenburgh Square, London, WC1N 2AB

Time and Session:

09:00-09:30 Registration

09:30–10:30 Keynote Presentation

Colonising the Field: Scientific Networks and the Sites of Archaeology in Early Twentieth-Century Tunisia

Daniel J. Sherman, Lineberger Distinguished Professor, Art History and History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

10:30-11:00 Break for tea/coffee

11:00–12:30 ‘Knowledge Practices’, Chaired by William Carruthers, GHIL

Marie Huber, Humboldt University of Berlin. Conservators on the Rise: The Expert Network Behind the Success of the Ethiopian World Heritage Nominations 1978–1979

Bianca Maria Nardella, University College London. Tracing the Articulation of Knowledge Practices of Urban Conservation in Decolonising Tunis: A Methodological Reflection

Mark Thurner, Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London. Before UNESCO: Pioneering the Decolonisation of Heritage in Latin America

12:30–13:30 Break for Lunch

13:30–15:00 ‘Museums’, Chaired by Mirjam Brusius, GHIL

Sarah K Griswold, New York University. The Levant at the Louvre, 1947: A Heritage of France’s First Colonial Loss

Tânia Madureira, University Institute of Lisbon. Heritage Management in a Mozambican Museum: From the Colonial Foundation to Postcolonial Reorganisation

Claire Wintle, University of Brighton. UK Museum Anthropology and Decolonisation: Changing Structures of Governance and Field, 1945–1980

15:00-15:30 Break for tea/coffee

15:30–17:00 ‘Archives’, Chaired by Andreas Gestrich, GHIL

Fabienne Chamelot, University of Portsmouth. Archives, Sovereignty and Decolonisation in French West Africa: When Archival Science Challenges National Politics

Katja Müller, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. The Internet as a Field for Decolonising Indian Cultural Heritage

Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Bringing Fresh Milk and Green Pastures to Ibadan: Imagining Future Agricultural Landscapes in Former British Colonies

17:15–18:45 ‘Decolonising Practice’, Chaired by Rodney Harrison, UCL/AHRC Heritage Research

Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, Hampshire College. Auto-Archaeology as a Decolonising Archaeological Heritage Practice

Jessica Namakkal, Duke University. Renaming and Removing as Decolonisation

Dean Sully, University College London. Decolonising Conservation, One Heritage Place at a Time



Date: Saturday 27th January

Venue: London House (Large Common Room), Mecklenburgh Square, London, WC1N 2AB

Time and Session:

09:00–11:00 ‘Nation/State/Globe’, Chaired by Indra Sengupta (GHIL) and Deborah Sutton (Lancaster University)

Nicodemus Fru Awasom, University of Swaziland. Commemorating Cameroon’s Anglophone and Francophone Nationalist Ideology through the Representation and Critique of the Reunification Monuments

Walter Rossa and Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo, Universidade de Coimbra. Heritage(s) of Portuguese Influence: History, Processes, and After-Effects

Amal Sachedina, George Washington University. The Circulation of Heritage in the Sultanate of Oman: The Ethical and Political Effects

Emmanuel Yenkong Sobseh, University of Bamenda. German Cultural Heritage and Decolonisation in British and French Cameroons, 1884–1961

11:00-11:30 Break for tea/coffee

11:30–12:30 Keynote Presentation

Decolonising South Asia through Heritage- and Nation-Building

Sudeshna Guha, Shiv Nadar University, India

William Goodenough House (Large Common Room), Mecklenburgh Square, London, WC1N 2AB London House (Large Common Room), Mecklenburgh Square, London, WC1N 2AB

About the Keynote Speakers

Sudeshna Guha is Associate Professor of History at Shiv Nadar University (India). She has curated photographic and archaeological collections at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (1997-2005), University of Cambridge, and also taught South Asian history there (2005-2008). She is currently developing research on archaeological heritage in South Asia focusing on ethics, and writing a book on Objects and Histories (Hachette, New Delhi). Her other books are The Marshall Albums: Photography and Archaeology (edited volume; Mapin, 2010), and Artefacts of History: Archaeology, Historiography and Indian Pasts (SAGE, 2015).

Daniel J. Sherman is Lineberger Distinguished Professor of Art History and History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  His books include The Construction of Memory in Interwar France (1999), French Primitivism and the Ends of Empire, 1945-1975 (2011), and, as editor, Museum Culture (1994) and Museums and Difference (2008).  He is currently working on a book tentatively entitled Sensations:  French Archaeology between Science and Media, 1890-1930.