in Heritopia


The path to Heritopia: World Heritage and modernity has been a long and steep one. Not for the first time, I have written about something both because I have been thinking about it and because I want to be free to think about something else. And once again, I have tried to understand and explain so as to be able to forget and move on.

But thinking and writing take time. My interest in the meanings of the past goes back to my teens, when I read an essay called Hvad skal vi med Historien? (“Why do we need history?”), by the author and historian Palle Lauring (1969), whose answer was that we can learn from history. An enquiry of my own has been considered, planned, started, suspended, and resumed on numerous occasions when there was time to spare between other duties at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Lund University, at home in Lund, and away in Nybro. Heritopia has thus been something of a Sisyphean task, in the course of which I have tried to survey and maintain order in a constantly growing number of books, articles, and press cuttings, as well as in my own ideas and those of other people. The first draft of a chapter came into being in 2006, but the work could only be completed during a more focused effort in 2015–2018. And now I can see that this investigation has been given a form that must have been shaped by my dual position as both Danish and Swedish, the distinctively Danish dimension often being defined by history and the Swedish one by modernity.

Heritopia is an attempt to stroll along the paths of curiosity without being bound by what characterises the research of today, namely strategies, deadlines, applications, budgets, running reports, and preferably answers that can be presented in advance – that is to say, without being bound by the expectations and demands of others. Instead, I have claimed for myself the mixed and time-consuming pleasure of actually reading all the literature and seeing all the films referred to, or very nearly. But I have by no means been able to visit all the World Heritage sites in the world. Heritopia is, in short, an attempt to conceptualise and write a book on my own terms, a book that I would like to read.

Heritopia has not been written in a state of isolation. First of all, I wish to thank my wife Bodil Petersson (Linnaeus University, Kalmar), who has followed and encouraged this work and read several versions. Next, my thanks go to Björn Magnusson Staaf (Lund University) and Asger Wienberg (Lund), who have also read the whole manuscript. All three of them have contributed both constructive and critical comments. Thanks also to two anonymous referees for Lund University Press for their helpful comments. I am grateful to the following for permission to reproduce photographs: Anders Andrén (Stockholm University) and Ingrid Berg (Uppsala University), Henrik Gerding and Lars Larsson (Lund University), Bodil Petersson (Linnaeus University, Kalmar), and Jens Vellev (Aarhus University). Thanks to Alun Richards of Manchester University Press for his help during the production stage. And finally, thanks to Marianne Thormählen of Lund University Press for providing great support through the entire process from a manuscript to a printed book.

This book is dedicated to my two children, Asger and Ingrid Wienberg.

Jes Wienberg

Lund, September 2020


World Heritage and modernity


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