UCL African Studies Research Centre


AFRIG006 - African Heritage

Value: 15 credits
Tutor: Dr Matthew Davies, Professor Kevin MacDonald
Assessment: 2 x 2,000 word essays


Africa holds a vast wealth of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, yet in many places this wealth is poorly known and often under threat. This module examines the depth and breadth of African cultural heritage and explores its past and future. The module also critically examines the politics of African heritage from international, national and local perspectives and questions the role of heritage in community engagement, conflict, education and museums. The module further examines the state of heritage legislation on the continent and the possible role of private companies and Cultural Resource Managers. Finally the module explores the content's range of intangible and indigenous views of heritage and questions some of the global frameworks within which heritage work is deployed. 

Module outline:

1. The history and politics of African Heritage: from the 19th C to present 

2. Looting and the ethics of portable cultural materials

3. Heritage of memory: oral traditions 

4. Beyond Monuments: Landscapes and Intangible Heritage

5. The Politics of African Heritage: Indigenous and Useable pasts 

6. Cultural Tourism and Natural Heritage 

7. Community engagement and communicating heritage 

8. Museums, conservation and interpretation  

9. Cultural Resource Management and the Private Sector 

10. Diaspora Heritage in Africa and the Americas 

Key texts

  • Arazi, N. and Thiaw, I. 2013. Managing Africa’s archaeological heritage. Pp. 213. In Mitchell, P. and Lane, P. (eds). The Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 
  • Ashley, C. and Bouakaze-Khan, D., 2011. Conservation and management of archaeological sites in sub-Saharan Africa. Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites, 13: 95-102. And other papers in this special issue. 
  • Basu, P. and Modest, Wayne, M. eds. 2015. Museums, Heritage, and International Development. New York and London: Routledge. 
  • Coombes, A. E., Hughes, L. and Karega-Munene (eds) 2014. Managing Heritage, Making Peace: History, Identity and Memory in Contemporary Kenya. London: IB Tauris
  • De Jong, F. and Rowlands, M. 2008. Reclaiming Heritage: Alternative Imaginaries of Memory in West Africa. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
  • Fontein, J. 2006. The silence of Great Zimbabwe: Contested landscapes and the power of heritage. Walnut Creek: Left Coast.
  • Harrison, R., 2013. Heritage: critical approaches. London: Routledge.
  • Lane, P. 2011. Possibilities for a postcolonial archaeology in sub-Saharan Africa: indigenous and usable pasts. World Archaeology 43: 7-25.
  • Mitchell, P. and Lane, P. (eds) 2013. The Oxford handbook of African archaeology. OUP Oxford.
  • Peterson, D., Gavua, K. and Rassool, C. 2015. The Politics of Heritage in Africa: Economies, histories and infrastructures. New York, Cambridge University Press.
  • Schramm, K. 2010. African Homecoming: Pan-African Ideology and the Politics of Heritage. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
  • Schmidt, P.R. and McIntosh, R.J. (eds.) 1996. Plundering Africa’s Past. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Sulas, F. Wynne-Jones, S. and Spence, K. 2011. Africa’s fragile heritages: Introduction. African Archaeological Review 28:1-3. And other papers in this special issue.
  • Waterton, E. and Watson, S. (eds). 2015. The Palgrave handbook of contemporary heritage research. Palgrave Macmillan.