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Challenging the notions of heritage


According to Laurajane Smith, Anna Morgan and Anita van der Meer, the project discussed in the previous step challenged the standard notions of what constitutes ‘heritage’, which usually tends to focus on material culture, such as:

“physical resources that can be seen, mapped and placed on site registers.”
They clearly show that for the Waanyi women participating in this project,
“their heritage was not only sites and places in a landscape, but just as importantly their oral histories. Not only was family history seen as heritage, but also the act of passing on that information was an important aspect of heritage and of the management of heritage. We were asked to record genealogies, and thus records of kinship and family links were identified as heritage. Not only is ‘heritage’ not all material and tangible […]. Within this project, heritage may also be identified as an experience, not just a physical place or object. For Waanyi women, simply being in their country and doing mundane, if enjoyable, things like fishing and being with kinswomen was a reaffirmation of country and identity. Heritage in this case was not only an experience, but was the experience.”
The authors recognize that granting control over this project to the Waanyi women, both as a process and as results, made it more meaningful for the community. They affirm that archeologists tend to see:
“tangible results as the single most important aspect of any project.”
In this project, the process seems to be more important than the results themselves. They conclude that by:
“relinquishing their control over their positions as experts in this heritage project they enabled the community to define its own role and thus the significance of the project to the community. They also, however, enabled the community to define itself.”

Why do you the challenges to overcome the traditional notion of expertise and knowledge? Please share you ideas in the comments section.

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