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Definitions of heritage according to the cultural context

Can the concept of cultural heritage take different meanings according to the cultural context? Nick Dines looks at English and Italian usage.

Can the concept of cultural heritage take on different meanings according to the cultural context?

Nick Dines argues that the ways in which cultural heritage is understood can vary according to cultural contexts and gives the example of the differences of its use in British English and Italian.

Instead of pointing at a fixed set of definitions for each language, Nick Dines draws on Raymond Williams’s approach of cultural materialism on semantic use, and his notion of “keyword” to account for the shifting meanings of the concept of cultural heritage depending on cultural contexts.

He argues that in British English there are various layers of meanings deriving from its use in different spheres, in policy and academia, but also in daily life. He argues that in Italy, the equivalent concept of ‘patrimonio culturale’ refers rather to an expert-driven approach as such a top-down discourse tends to monopolize the use of this concept.

Reflect on the meaning of cultural heritage in your own culture: what is the word for ‘cultural heritage’ in your language? What is the origin of this word? What does it refer to?

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Cultural Heritage and the City

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