Heritopia explores the multiple meanings of the past in the present, using the
famous temples of Abu Simbel and other World Heritage sites as points of
departure. It employs three perspectives in its attempt to understand and
explain both past and present the truth of knowledge, the beauties of narrative,
and ethical demands. Crisis theories are rejected as nostalgic expressions of
contemporary social criticism. Modernity is viewed as a collection of
contradictory narratives and reinterpreted as a combination of technological
progress and recently evolved ideas. The book argues that while heritage is
expanding, it is not to be found everywhere, and its expansion does not
constitute a problem. It investigates the World Heritage Convention as an
innovation, demonstrating that the definition of a World Heritage site succeeds
in creating a tenable category of outstanding and exclusive heritage. The book
introduces the term “Heritopia” in order to conceptualise the utopian
expectations associated with World Heritage. Finally, it points to the
possibilities of using the past creatively when meeting present-day and future
accelerates. Time means steps forward or backward, rise or fall.
The Past is a Foreign Country by DavidLowenthal had a broad impact with its anthropological look at the past. As the title suggests, and as the content of the book confirms, the idea is that the present has been alienated from the past. The past has become different, remote, and exotic – a “foreign country” (Lowenthal 1985 : xvi, 406; 2015:3f, 8ff, 358ff).
Lowenthal’s title was taken from the author L. P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between, whose opening sentence is, “The past is a foreign country: they
recognise the three timescales of the French Annales school – the event, the conjuncture, and the long-term structure.
The field can display sharp contrasts between the rhetorical slogans for or against protection and preservation – via the critical analyses of how the past has been or may, should, or will be used – to categorical statements to the effect that history, memory, and heritage are expressions of a society that is either rising or decaying.
The Past is a Foreign Country (1985), by the historian and geographer DavidLowenthal, became a classic soon after
Heritage is everywhere
DavidLowenthal’s classic The Past is a Foreign Country opens with the sentence “The past is everywhere”, and he used exactly the same words three decades later when he revisited that country (Lowenthal 1985 : xv; 2015: 1). The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History begins in much the same way, but here the past has been limited to heritage: “ALL AT ONCE HERITAGE IS EVERYWHERE – in the news, in the movies, in the marketplace – in everything from galaxies to genes” (Lowenthal 1997 : ix). The phrase “Heritage everywhere” is
make clear, a distinguishing feature of memory approaches to history is
their concern with the process of memory on historical knowledge,
in particular the contingency of the historically remembered past. Thus
what we call the past is accessible only through private and publicly
articulated memories, narrated through the perspective of the present.
DavidLowenthal has termed this memorial knowledge , knowledge of
; Diaz-Andreu 2007 ). DavidLowenthal’s works – The Past is a Foreign Country (1985; 2015) and The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (1997) – must be included as an important part of this wave of criticism.
The criticism recapitulated above led to the establishment of both (critical) use of history and critical heritage as academic fields for research and teaching, from the 1990s onwards with their own conferences, journals, series, textbooks, networks, centres, and education programmes (e.g. International Journal of Heritage Studies 1994ff; cf
, campaigns, and centres – and they even do so across the two cultures of heritage (e.g. Tunbridge & Ashworth 1996 ; Weissglas et al. 2002 ; Holtorf 2005 : 130ff; Liliequist 2005 ).
The opposite view is also abundantly represented – that heritage is a liability, a problem and an obstacle, or, in short, that heritage is of no value. This criticism was given its most forceful expression by DavidLowenthal in the 1990s, with derogatory words about heritage such as oppressive, defeatist, decadent, hyped, nostalgic, alarming, causes chaos, rubbish, sacred cow, corrupted