University of Massachusetts Amherst


    Co-organized by

UMass Amherst

Center for Heritage & Society



Centre for Heritage at Kent
(Kent University)

    With Support From


Interdisciplinary Studies Institute, UMass Amherst

Joukowsky Institute

The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Joukowsky Institute

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences, UMass Amherst

Joukowsky Institute

The International Programs Office, UMass Amherst

Joukowsky Institute

UMass Public History Program

Landscape Architecture Regional Planning, UMass Amherst

Sustainable Preservation Initiative

Maney Publishing

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UMass Amherst


The Department of History,
UMass Amherst

The Department of Anthropology,
UMass Amherst



Heritage and Healthy Societies

Exploring the Links among Cultural Heritage, Environment, and Resilience

May 14 - 16, 2014 at the UMass Amherst Campus

Final Program

The Final Program is available here.

Plenary Speakers

  • Jane Grenville, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of York, UK
  • Rodney Harrison, Reader in Reader in Archaeology, Heritage and Museum Studies, Institute of Archaeology, University College London
  • Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

The Challenge

Whether on an individual or a societal scale, heritage and well-being are often seen as disparate concerns. When heritage is viewed as related to community well-being, its value is often reduced to economic development and tourism, rather than something that might be integral to wellness on a larger scale. But how can the collective remaking of the past in the present play a role in imagining a more sustainable and healthy future?

The goal of this conference is to explore the application of the past to contemporary and future social challenges, specifically sustainability and wellbeing. Given the current focus on climate change, rising sea levels, and the displacement of peoples, the wellness of societies is a critical issue. But until now, heritage has had little to say about the subject. The conference will explore the relationship between heritage and three interrelated aspects of sustainability and wellbeing. They include: (1) Heritage and environment: How can heritage be brought to bear on the problems of environmental sustainability, including changing ecosystems, food security, and dwindling energy resources? (2) Heritage and resilience: How does the past affect issues of social sustainability, including community adaptability, cohesion and identity? (3) Heritage and wellness: How do cases of historical trauma, and the processes of continuity and memory relate to physical and mental health of individuals and society?

Major Themes and Suggested Topics

The conference will bring together heritage scholars from a wide range of sectors to examine the potential of cultural heritage to contribute to a more sustainable future. We will do so by promoting transdisciplinary explorations of the intersections among heritage and environment, resilience, and wellness.

Themes to be explored in this conference include:

  • Heritage and Environment: The problematic separation of nature and culture in Western ontologies has contributed to an instrumental relationship to the natural world and the attendant problems of environmental degradation, air pollution, and dwindling energy resources. Within heritage policy, this binary is reproduced in the separation of “natural” and “cultural” landscapes in national and international legal frameworks, such as UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention, resulting in the problematic separation of natural and cultural resources in issues of planning and development. More recent calls for flat, “connectivity ontologies” (Harrison 2013) and “multi-naturalist perspectives” (Latour 2004, de Castro 2004) that situate humans and non-humans in interconnected webs or assemblages (Deleuze 2004) offer a way of broadening discussions of sustainability to encompass human and non-human actors and environments. Papers in this theme will examine how uses of the past in the context of practices such as local foodways, environmental activism, and climate mitigation (wind farms, solar energy, etc.) contribute to the rebuilding of a common world between humans and non-humans, and to environmental sustainability.
  • Heritage and Resilience: A range of scholars have highlighted the ways in which people’s interactions with place can contribute to a sense of group resilience—a perspective often lost when heritage objects, sites and landscapes are assumed to carry their own inherent meanings. Jane Grenville (2007), for example, has highlighted how the built environment provides a sense of “ontological security” that can contribute to a sense of human creativity in the face of social upheaval. Similarly, Michael Herzfeld (2004) has shown how cultural intimacy and vibrant sociability engender local resistance to the monumentalization of social space and neoliberal processes of urban restructuring. Finally, Mindy Fullilove (2005) has charted the “emotional ecosystems” that congeal group solidarity in urban environments, and the traumatic stress or “root shock” that can be brought on by urban renewal. Building on these notions of ontological security, cultural intimacy, and emotional ecosystems, papers in this theme will explore how uses of the past contribute to social sustainability by engendering group resilience and/or resistance to multi-scalar processes of social displacement whether of the environmental, developmental, or neoliberal varieties.
  • Heritage and Wellness: Just as the nature-culture divide has narrowed the scope of landscapes to the technical management of natural sites, so too in the fields of medicine, epidemiology and public health, the study of the factors giving rise to physical and social health have been narrowed to consider risk and protective factors and their relationship to the etiology of disease. Far less attention has been directed at the ways in which place, intergenerational continuity and collective and autobiographical memory affect personal and community wellbeing. Research among public health scholars has highlighted correlations between discrete cultural factors such as acculturation stress, historical trauma, and rapid social change and negative health outcomes.[1] Other scholars have pointed to the positive health outcomes associated with enculturation, personal and cultural identity, intergenerational continuity, and civic engagement.[2] How these associations are made possible and the ways in which they “work” are rich areas for interdisciplinary investigations. Papers in this theme will explore the ways in which personal and community interpretations and portrayal of heritage influence physical and mental health individually and on a population level, and the broader relationships between culture, identity, ecology and health.

Specific topics under these themes may include:

  • Heritage and climate change
  • Historic urban landscapes and sustainability
  • Social dislocation, trauma, and wellbeing
  • Slow food and local foodways
  • Adaptive reuse and green building
  • Traditional forms of healing
  • Heritage and “happiness”
  • Sustainable development
  • Place attachment and community well-being
  • Eco-museums and community

Submission of Abstracts

  • Abstract submission has ended. Full-length papers do not need to be submitted at any point. Participants will have 20 minutes to present their papers, and each session will be followed by a question and answer period. Conference registration must be made by March 1, 2014.

For questions or requests for additional information, please contact CHS Research Assistant Evan Taylor( or visit the CHS website:

[1] Borowsky, Ireland and Resnik 2001; Knibbe, Joosten, Choquet, Derickx, Morin, and Monshouwer 2007; Wexler 2006, 2009.

[2] See Hernandez, 2002; Nagel, 1994; Wakefield and Hudley 2007, Chandler & Lalonde, 2001, Csikszentmihalyi, 2002; Wexler, et. al, 2013.

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Center for Heritage and Society, 215 Machmer Hall, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003 phone: 413.545.2221  fax: 413.545.9494