This panel will explore the new context for the politics of heritage, patrimonialization and preservation of tangible and intangible culture in contemporary Africa. It will discuss how new opportunities, debates and actors affect museums, archives and cultural heritage sites.
In Africa, as elsewhere in the Global South, a new and often contradictory context has emerged for the politics of heritage, patrimonialization and preservation of tangible and intangible culture. The factors that have led to this include: half a century of independence with the ensuing detachment or transformation of collective memory from the colonial past; new South-South circuits; the global coming of multiculturalism (with the hope of turning ethnicity into diversity; and handcraft and cultural artifacts into heritage); the UNESCO Intangible Heritage Program; the spread of new communication technologies; as well as the political wish to revert the conventional geopolitics of knowledge - which had assigned a marginal role to Africa in the making of archives, libraries and museums. This panel wishes to explore this new context and investigate which are the new actors in it as well as the new opportunities it offers. We would like to elicit, for example, the reality of World Cultural Heritage Sites in Africa (e.g. sites associated with the memory of slavery such as Cidade Velha in Cape Verde, the Gorée Island in Senegal; and Zanzibar in Tanzania); the situations of old and new museums in Africa (and their connections with museums in the North); and the debates on the politics of the archives (e.g. the tense political debate about the Aluka digital archive project). Even though there is an obvious concern for the present, our aim is also to elicit continuities and ruptures in this field.