Heritage and Healthy Societies
Exploring the Links among Cultural Heritage, Environment, and Resilience
May 14 - 16, 2014 at the UMass Amherst Campus
The Final Program is available here.
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
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
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
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. Other scholars have pointed to the positive health outcomes associated with
enculturation, personal and cultural identity, intergenerational continuity, and civic engagement. 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”
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(firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the CHS website: http://www.umass.edu/chs
Borowsky, Ireland and Resnik 2001; Knibbe, Joosten, Choquet, Derickx, Morin, and Monshouwer 2007; Wexler 2006, 2009.
See Hernandez, 2002; Nagel, 1994; Wakefield and Hudley 2007, Chandler & Lalonde, 2001, Csikszentmihalyi, 2002; Wexler, et. al, 2013.