Institute of Archaeology


Critical Perspectives on Cultural Heritage

The focus of this course is upon examining 'heritage' in conceptual, epistemological and intellectual terms. A stress is placed on the interdisciplinary nature of the field and upon the utilisation of diverse theoretical sources and methodological approaches. Different notions of cultural heritage are explored using models taken from, amongst others, critical museology, material and visual cultural theory, archaeology, memory-studies, postcolonial theory and law. An emphasis is placed upon anthropology and anthropological perspectives vis-à-vis addressing emergent heritage issues. These issues are subsequently grounded and problematised in a series of global case-study contexts.

A central objective here is to align with a wider scholarship committed to disrupting the 'Eurocentrism' which continues to dominate cultural heritage theory/ practice and also with a contemporary 'politics of recognition' which is bound up in articulating new, alternative or 'parallel' characterisations of heritage value. We highlight current debates and contestations by focusing in on issues such as: authenticity, identity, ideology, ownership and commodification; tangible and intangible heritage; culture and conflict; trauma and memorialisation; cultural/ indigenous and minority rights; hybridity and cosmopolitan flows; human decency and human dignity. By the end of the course students should be capable of thinking beyond mainstream heritage concepts, categories and texts and engaging with alternative intellectual and methodological frame-works orientated towards the fundamental re-conceptualisations and reconstruction of core heritage values, practices and ethics.

Teaching methods

The course is taught through formal lectures, seminars and visits. The lectures and seminars will be conducted by UCL staff, with the addition of guest speakers who have specialist knowledge and expertise on current projects and issues. Students are expected to participate actively in the seminars, and will be required to undertake a considerable amount of self-directed learning. Seminars have weekly *essential readings*, which students will be expected to have done, to be able fully to follow and actively to contribute to discussion.

Methods of Assessment

This course is assessed by means of a single assessed essay of 4,000 words; there is no written examination.

Course information

For registered students


  • Running in 2021-22