Heritage, Conflicts, Tourism and the Role of Researchers

An Ethnographic Approach

Convenors: Giovanna Rech (University of Trento) & Monica Gilli (University of Torino)
Contacts: giovanna.rech@unitn.it; monica.gilli@unito.it

Heritage sites and routes are social constructions that present the historical and artistic heritage of a region or a nation, its landscape and natural assets, along with its use and custom in communities. The focus of societies on their past is an important aspect of political, academic and local community activities as well as an educational, recreational and conflictual resource for individuals. Additionally, in the process of heritage-making, collective (shared or divided) memories are circulated, social groups activated in participatory processes and heritage communities created or identified.

As these activities influence or characterise the social and symbolic values of a social group, mechanisms of heritagisation and heritage-making involve conflicts at various levels, such as interpretations (expressive goals of heritage; instrumental goals of heritage) and social uses (economic, political, religious stakes).

Through which of the participative processes, where different interpretations of heritage co-exist, is the heritage tourist proposal built in communities? How are expressive and instrumental goals of heritage negotiated between visitors and local communities? How are the sources of conflicts in heritage interpretation managed by the local community and/or guides? How can the economic use of heritage transform a place? How can different social uses co-exist in the same heritage site or route?

In such sites and routes, the researcher (anthropologist, sociologist or historian) is often an active part of the heritagisation process (discovery, rediscovery, musealisation and interpretation), at times assuming the role of a legitimation agent. During ethnographic research, they find themselves negotiating the value of heritage in a reflective process – they reflect on both their own role and the consequences of their choices and interactions. How do they present themselves or behave at methodological, ethical and aesthetic levels? What are the arrangements that occur during the conflict phase within the community and the academic community? What are the most conflicting practices at the local level?

Fields of Study

Tourist studies, critical heritage studies, sociology of culture, anthropology of heritage, political sciences, religious studies, history of arts, museography.

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