Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp

Encounters of Culture, Heritage and Development in Sierra Leone

My PhD research is concerned with exploring encounters of culture, heritage and development, in post-conflict Sierra Leone. It emerges in response to the so-called ‘cultural turn’ in approaches to development, and current critical anthropological thinking about heritage and musaeology. My research returns to these critiques, using them as a theoretical core for reviewing culture for development discourse and building a new framework for understanding the nexus between culture and development in a wider framework of globalisation.

Central to this research is exploring the relationship between culture and development in Sierra Leone by taking a multi-cited ethnographic approach, influenced by anthropological development critique. I use the Sierra Leone National Museum in Freetown as a core site, and trace networks of people, institutions, places and things, which weave in and out of the museum at the nexus of culture and development. Secondary sites include, amongst others, the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, a Pentecostal church in Freetown, the preparation for the celebration of Sierra Leone’s 50th anniversary of independence and my own work with the AHRC funded ‘Reanimating Cultural Heritage’ project.

Through this approach I critically engage with current understandings of the wider culture and development discourse, and interventions that emerge out of it. I ask whether this discourse is appropriate in a context like Sierra Leone and explore how the idea of ‘culture for development’ can move forward.

Funding organisation

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council


 Educational background

  • BA, Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 2006
  • MA, Cultural Heritage Studies, University College London, 2007

Zetterstrom-Sharp, J. 2010. Reanimating cultural heritage in Sierra Leone: a search for the “source community”. In University of Manchester, Museums and Restitution Conference, Manchester 8th-9th July, 2010.

  • Sampa dancers at the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, marking Sierra Leone’s 50th anniversary of independence in April, 2011
  • Protective ‘Ronko’ shirts, similar to those worn by the Civil Defence Force during the civil war, displayed at the Sierra Leone National Museum.
  • Ode-lay ‘debul’ processing down Campbell Street, Freetown, on Easter Monday 2010.

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