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Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies


Admission requirements

Admission requirements and any restrictions.


Brief introductory description of the course. Please include course subject and teaching materials used.

Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies
Instructor: Adele Esposito

Who engages in the selection of the objects, places, and practices which are considered as heritage, and why? What happens when different actors use heritage for claiming conflicting interests? This course calls into question the values which frame heritage selection; further, it understands the interplay of competing agendas, and productively assesses heritage management measures. It examines heritage as an inexhaustible réservoir of cultural contents, which gives meaningful insights into the way social agents represent themselves and their respective groups with regard to multiple (and sometimes even contradictory) regimes of values and ownership. Drawing on a wide range of case studies from Asia, we will question the assumptions underlying various heritage notions, which are mainly inspired by European approaches. We will ask whether Asia can be a source of theory and methods in the heritage field, with the aim of developing a more holistic way of conceiving and dealing with heritage. The course is organized around a cluster of lectures and workshop, during which the students will be actively engaged in presentations, discussion, and paper writing. Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology from Harvard University, will offer a week intensive classes in the frame of this course (September 16th-23hd).

Suggested reading: Harrison, R. 2013. Heritage. Critical Approaches. London: Routledge. Additional texts will be made available through blackboard.

Course objectives

Concise description of the course objectives formulated in terms of knowledge, insight and skills students will have acquired at the end of the course. The relationship between these objectives and achievement levels for the programme should be evident.

  • Students will be provided with the theoretical tools to autonomously recognize from an historical perspective the assumptions underlying various heritage approaches.

  • They will develop a reflexive attitude towards existing management systems, policies, and projects. These analytical skills will be useful to them in their career as heritage practitioners or researchers.

  • They will be asked to develop and express their own perspective over the examined case studies and to be active producers of knowledge on one topic of their choice.


Time and date on which the course is offered or a link to the website.

Presentation of the course: September 4th 10h-12h a.m.
Classes every Thursday from 3 to 5pm, starting from September 12th.
Intensive classes with Prof. Michael Herzfeld: September 16th, 20th, 23hd.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Lectures/seminars = 34h
(2 hours/week x 14 weeks + 3 courses (2h each) with M. Herzfeld)

Study of literature = 56 hours
Written assignments = 50 hours

Assessment method

  • Active participation at the class meetings – Oral presentations – Leading/participating to collective discussions – Critical analysis of literature and other sources – Paper writing


YES, please register for the course in Blackboard

Reading list

A preliminary selection of suggested readings:
(Additional bibliography will be provided during the course meetings and through blackboard).

  • Choay, F. 1996. L’allégorie du patrimoine. Paris: Editions du Seuil. – Daly, P. and Winter, T. (eds). 2012. Routledge Handbook of Heritage in Asia. London: Routledge. – Harrison, R. 2013. Heritage. Critical Approaches. London: Routledge. Additional texts will be made available through blackboard. – Herzfeld, M. 2006. «Spatial Cleansing: Monumental Vacuity and the Idea of the West», in Journal of Material Culture, n°11:127, pp. 127-145. – Hitchock, M., King, V.T., and Parnwell, M. 2009. Heritage Tourism in Southeast Asia. Copenhagen: NIAS Press. – Lowenthal, D. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


through uSis, also register in Blackboard