Heritage research has moved focus from the ancient and monumental to the social, mutable and intangible. Death and loss remain central, but heritage can animate the dead; hold and awaken memories; name the nameless; give voice to the silent; and re-enact the past in the present.
Heritage conservation is preoccupied with the recovery and commemoration of that which is dead or dying. It seeks to record stories, places and practices vulnerable to extinction. Traditionally the domain of archaeologists and historians, rather than social or cultural anthropologists, heritage practice has prioritised material culture of the past over the lived cultures of the present. Heritage research has undergone a radical transformation, moving beyond the ancient and monumental to consider social, mutable and so-called intangible aspects of heritage. Despite this shift heritage remains concerned with death and loss. Death looms as a pervasive threat to cultural knowledge; people age and die, places are destroyed and objects lose their context and meaning, cultural practices slowly fade away. But things and places outlive people, and new approaches can challenge these preoccupations. Heritage can animate the dead; hold and awaken memories; name the nameless; give voice to the silent; re-enact, recreate and reimagine cultural practices and language. In other words, heritage is a mechanism through which the dead act through and on the living.
This panel seeks to explore how heritage enlivens and gives new meanings to the dead in the present. We call for contributions from those working at the intersection of anthropology and heritage, on topics including:
• Remembering the dead: commemoration, memorials, stories
• Rights of the dead: repatriation of people, objects and copies
• Restoration, revitalisation and reinvention of dead and dying tradition
• Representing the dead: interpretation, museum and display
• Reconnecting a buried past: archaeology and communities