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Deliberate Heritage: Difference and Disagreement After Charlottesville

Date and Time: 
Thursday, November 9, 2017. 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center
Workshop: 
Archaeology--Political Landscapes: Past and Present
Meeting Description: 

Cultural heritage is often seen as a tool for managing social change, as a mirror that society holds up to itself to make sense of change. In this talk, Lafrenz Samuels will examine how heritage also mobilizes social change, framing cultural heritage as a persuasive tool in a public sphere of competing interests and claims. Rather than taking the public circulation of rhetoric and disagreement about heritage as epiphenomenal to its value, she suggests deliberation composes a critical function of cultural heritage. The public discussions about heritage that erupted following the events in Charlottesville demonstrate the contests over meaning and proposed actions that highlight the persuasive character of heritage, especially under social conditions of deep pluralism, divisive politics, and mass democracy that mark our contemporary era. Further, cultural heritage provides such a powerful social tool for persuasion because it effectively harnesses issues of trust and affective states, as seen in the public reasoning that played out across media outlets, social media, and expert networks in the aftermath of Charlottesville.

Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland. Her work integrates archaeological and sociocultural anthropology around issues of cultural heritage, focusing in particular on transnational relations forged through heritage practice in international economic development, human rights, democracy building, and responses to global climate change. Her current research examines the heritage of anthropogenic climate change through the historic resources and material infrastructure of carbon-based energy resources, and the implication of this past within contemporary adaptation and mitigation efforts. She is co-editor of Making Roman Places: Past and Present (2012, JRA Supplement Series) and Heritage Keywords: Rhetoric and Redescription in Cultural Heritage (2015, UP Colorado), and her forthcoming book is Mobilizing Heritage: Anthropological Practice and Transnational Prospects (UP Florida).

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