Accepted paper:

GCRF and the new visibilities of heritage-as-development: a case study of maritime cultural heritage in coastal Kenya


Mark Lamont (The Open University)

Paper short abstract:

This is a case study of an on-going GCRF funded project to make the maritime cultural landscape in Kenya more visible. The paper explores how GCRF policy on the humanities creates new value out of visibility, bringing heritage-as-development into closer alignment with the UK's foreign aid policy.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the 'global challenges' facing stakeholders within a small maritime heritage project in Kilifi County, Kenya. Funded through a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) network, MUCH to Discover in Mida Creek uses the 'rich maritime cultural landscape of Mida Creek as a newly visible resource' to create pathways to community resilience and sustainable development. The project is led by the maritime archaeology unit at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and is partnered with a Community-Based Organisation (CBO) to promote maritime heritage through educational activities. Significantly, the project also involves UK-based archaeologists and digital creative industry professionals. This on-going project adds important new perspectives on how GCRF funding shapes the temporalities and values of development-focused heritage projects. The Mida Creek project exemplifies heritage-as-development and leads paradoxically to a critical dialogue about the decolonization of cultural heritage and archaeological professions, while simultaneously leading to a strengthened UK off-shore control over humanities scholarship through the architecture of GCRF funding. Contrasting with a prevailing conceptualization of heritage as 'past-looking' and development as 'future-looking' (Basu and Modest 2015), the Mida Creek project draws attention to visibility as a value, linked in the new technical emphasis on digital humanities or web presence in the heritage professions. This paper argues that this visibility is how the humanities can continue to argue - on the basis of evidence - that they can return value to the UK while participating in capacity-building activities in the host country.

panel O3
History and development: practicing the past in pursuit of 'progress'