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Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies


Admission requirements

Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact their co-ordinator of studies.


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 innovative concepts 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 2014).

Teaching materials
Suggested reading: Harrison, R. 2013. Heritage. Critical Approaches. London: Routledge. Additional materials (primary and secondary sources) will be listed in the syllabus of the course.

Course objectives

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

  • 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.

  • They will develop a reflexive attitude towards existing management systems, policies, and plans. This will enable them to propose innovative measures for the management of different forms of heritage.


Classes every Thursday from 3 to 5pm, starting from September 11th.
See timetable

Please NOTE that there are EXTRA obligatory meetings for this course, related to special classes of guest lecturer prof. Michael Herzfeld:
17/09 – 15-17h. – Eyckhof 2/005
18/09 – 10am-13h. Eyckhof 2/005
19/09 – 3:45pm optional event: PhD defense at VU Amsterdam
19/09 – 2pm-5pm workshop at VU Amsterdam

Mode of instruction


Course Load

5ECTS = 140 hours

Lectures/seminars = 34h
(2 hours/week x 14 weeks + 3 courses (2h each) with M. Herzfeld)
Study of literature = 56 hours
Written assignments (notes based on reading + final paper) = 50 hours

Assessment method

  • Active participation at the class meetings (including oral presentations and collective discussions): 25%

  • Critical analysis of literature and other sources 25%

  • Paper writing 50%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

Resit: students can submit a revised version of the final paper in February.


Yes, blackboard will be used for:

  • Describing, uploading, and grading the assignments;

  • Uploading teaching materials (e.g. power point presentations);

Reading list

This is a preliminary selection of suggested readings. Students can read one of these books or some of the chapters of these edited volumes, in order to get familiar with the field of study and with the contemporary academic debates concerning heritage. Additional readings for each class will be provided in the syllabus.

Choay, F. 1996. L’allégorie du patrimoine. Paris: Editions du Seuil (in French).
Daly, P. and Winter, T. (eds). 2012. Routledge Handbook of Heritage in Asia. London: Routledge.
Fairclough, G. ; Harrison, R. ; Schofield, J. ; Jameson, J. (eds.). 2006. The Heritage Reader. London-New York : Routledge.
Harrison, R. 2013. Heritage. Critical Approaches. London: Routledge. Additional texts will be made available through blackboard.
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.
Smith, L. 2006. Uses of Heritage. London-New York : Routledge.


Through uSis


Dr. Adèle Esposito