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Accepted Paper:

Cultural vs. natural decay: disjunctures of global and nativist discourses of heritage preservation  
Smita Yadav (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

What is "idyllic" and natural" about heritage preservation practices in specific spatial and temporal contexts? How do discourses of heritage preservation regarding an idyllic past contradict the lives of communities who continue to incorporate nature in their lives?

Paper long abstract:

While there is an anthropological space of responsibility to hold the autocratic forest regimes accountable, this involves considerable challenges, such as the conflict between universal and particularist interpretations and claims to heritages. The paper will compare the works of native anthropologists’ claims on native indigenous rights with those from scholars trained in Western anthropological traditions to show how the latter anthropologists’ own assumptions of responsibility to universal heritage ecologies are in direct conflict with ethnographic aspects of Gonds’ own indigenous notions of heritage. Ethnographic accounts reflect the Gonds desire to influence local rather than global politics of heritage movements. The paper shows disjunctures between the discourses of universal heritage preservation movements and the local and regional level nativist struggles of rights and identities. Here, native refers to indigenous people, the Gonds, one of India’s largest indigenous population. Their cultural heritage and preservation has been paralysed by autocratic forest conservation efforts coupled with a weak welfare state. As an ethical consequence, the Gonds are slowly losing their lands, and, therefore their indigenous identity. Their indigenous knowledge of conservation and forest management has been replaced by a secular and modern discourse of a joint forest-management system. This is largely due to the Gonds’ illiteracy and the lack of a progressive universal environmental movement to articulate their desires to return to their heritage, which is slowly being destroyed as the Gonds merge with urban India.

Panel Irre08a
Taking responsibility for the past: heritage ethics in an era of cultural protectionism I
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -