So here this is a woman in Australia. She is a Filipino. She just immigrated to Australia. She’s coming to a stately home in Australia to find out what it means to be Australian. But also she’s here doing a performance of being a Australian. She’s making connections, in this case, to the people in the past and for her, in a way, to go into unknown places. Australia is relatively recently colonized country. So she’s looking at the colonial history and making links to herself. This woman is an African-American woman who recently immigrated to America. She said a very famous site called Ellis Island, which is a site of immigration in the United States.
And here she says the whole American journey I feel I’m connected to it. Going through this site made her feel connected to her new identity as an American. “As I told you before, I’m Jamaican - coming here, It was struggles, difficulty, just like the journeys others have made.” Her immigration was full of struggles. She understands that other immigrants had similar struggles and that makes her feel connected. It may give her a sense of place, but also as a performance of her new national identity. So they’re both of these women, the one from Australia and the one here are asserting their moral words as new citizens of their chosen country, as I said, performance of belonging.
Back to the civil rights museum and the speaking here with her son. She was expressing she may remember the discomfort of the fact that there were white in museum. She didn’t like that. Now what was interesting in England in particular, but also in Australia and the United States. I’ll be interviewing white people at Plantation Homes or Stately Homes. And they would see people from a different ethnic background go by. And they would stop the interview and to say what those people doing here and they make a comment they don’t like the fact that there are people unlike themselves.
The one of the things that comes through from the research is that people like to visit places where they will see people like themselves to make that connection. So she’s seen people unlike herself, and this is making her uncomfortable. She does not like that she unwanted here. So why is that? To understand this, I draw on the work of Nancy Fraser and Iris Young to talk about the politics of recognition. I argue that heritage is in many ways to get tied up and entangled with the politics of recognition.
So what the politics of recognition says is that from the nineteen sixties onwards, certainly in anglophone context, there is a new way of doing politics where people’s sense of identity and the injustice they suffered in the past may have formed that identity which are legitimate resources in struggles of the power and struggles to get resources that have been denied to them, to bring back to themselves. So it’s important in the redistribution of resources, such as access to housing, welfare, education, and so on. And heritage, I’m arguing, plays a role in that politics of recognition, in the politics of acknowledging that there is difference, that there are different people, there is a diversity of cultural and social experiences in society.
So heritage becomes implicated in the way in which people are either legitimized or claimed. People are making for identity either legitimized or delegitimized. There are a range of heritage performances that occur across all round of sites that are linked to politics of recognition. Some visitors talk explicitly about their visit to heritage sites do not belong to their own heritage. That the visiting the heritage of others, they said this is a statement of recognition That the visiting the heritage of others, they said this is a statement of recognition of the other that they are attempting to recognize and legitimize the other.
All the visitors assert self respect and say their visit to this sorts of their own heritage is a statement that they being met up in society.
Some visitors from powerful hegemonic groups, from dominant ethnic groups engage in recognizing themselves as the inheritance of privileges. This person is doing. So this is a site, the Pequot is from the United States. The Pequot Museum is a museum of indigenous history in the United States of American Indians. And this woman is acknowledging that going to this place made her feel sad. It made her acknowledge that as a white person that white people invaded America and they brought disease, they brought killings and all that stuffs she’s recognizing the implications of that for American society today. But to go back to our speaker at the civil rights museum and to understand why she said I don’t want white people here.
She is engaged in a form of self recognition to understand who discovered. We need to appreciate that she’s passing on social and familial memories to her son of not just discrimination, but of the civil rights movements in the United States, continuing struggles to overcome prejudice. So she’s creating for her son a place of self recognition in the United States. And what I think she’s doing here is that she doesn’t want negative values. The idea of blacks as victims, if you like, to be incorporated into his identity. She doesn’t want injury or negativity to be brought into her sense of self in America.
And I think she’s reacting against the possibility that doing this self recognition with people unlike herself opens up the possibility that the negativity of what discrimination will become part of his identity. And this is an important point that is often made in the heritage literature. in the museum logically literature is that heritage sites or museums should be safe places for them. It should be safe. But what this woman is illustrating is that for her and her son, the site is not safe. Because it has the possibility of miss recognizing or misunderstanding of who she is, because of the presence of white people.
And as she says, she wants to be able to feel good, to know that there is a history, history of civil rights activism for her to move forward from. She just wants to move forward from a sense of victim hood. There are a lot of researches that I’ve done, visitors were using their emotions, as I said, to re-enforce or to engage in performances of inter-generational communication or to engage in self recognition, recognizing themselves as particular members of society, a particular citizenship of politics and so on. But what about education, even though that is the dominant assumption? And I did say that there was a performance of education. What was interesting?
Is that at national sites that I surveyed where there had been an attempt to bring in information that unsettled, comfortable nationalizing narratives. That is where had been an attempt to educate people. Sometimes it’s about the history of slavery in the United States or in England, or the role of immigrants in dominant society and so on. Where that happened? It was a very interesting response to that education. And that response was resistance - did not want to be educated. So what I want to look at now is the ways in which emotions we use to reject that educational imperative of the museum or heritage site interpreter.