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Open Access (free)
World Heritage and modernity
Author: Jes Wienberg

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 challenges.

Open Access (free)
Jes Wienberg

Chapter 1 is an introduction, which presents the main aim of understanding and explaining the importance of the past in the present. The temples of Abu Simbel and their rescue in the 1960s in a salvage campaign by UNESCO are defined as a point of departure, and all chapters refer back to it as an example. Seven paradoxes related to the rescue of Abu Simbel are defined. The claim by David Lowenthal that “The past is everywhere” (1985) and the negative attitude to the past and heritage – in particular by him and other scholars – is called into question. So are existing explanations for the rise of heritage. Two cultures in relation to heritage, canonical and critical heritage, are identified. The first is dominated by heritage managers striving for preservation, whereas the second is dominated by academics questioning these efforts. The World Heritage scheme, with its great number of sites, is chosen as a clearly defined and well-documented source material, constituting a set of “Archimedean points” for further investigation on a global level. Finally, the introduction displays the open methodological character of the investigation and presents an outline of the book.

in Heritopia
Open Access (free)
Jes Wienberg

the same time, the disparagingly named “Authorized Heritage Discourse”, and UNESCO especially, have been extremely alert to issues involving representation, topicality, and dialogue. Hence, the distinction between old and new, between established and revolutionary, is not as great as the rhetoric wants to claim. Even if the differences between canonical and critical heritage become blurred over time, there is still a distinct difference when it comes to defining cultural and natural heritage, as well as in relation to such themes as decay and vandalism, and

in Heritopia
Jes Wienberg

different discourses, between canonical and critical heritage, between representatives of different research traditions, and in the prioritisation of either the true, the beautiful, or the good. These conflicts are manifested in a polarised debate about the right heritage policy, a debate in which each distinct tradition attempts to define the field in its own way. In relation to that debate, political parties try to define heritage so that it fits their specific agenda – heritage as something enduring or something changeable, something delimited, national, or universal

in Heritopia