Accepted Paper:

Knowledge and power in the UNESCO World Heritage system  


Christoph Brumann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle)

Paper short abstract:

I analyse how the growth of UNESCO World Heritage into a major global brand has spawned a new domain of systematised knowledge and the corresponding web of institutions. How did this evolve, and how much influence does knowledge - as against "dumb power" - really have in World Heritage decisions?

Paper long abstract:

The recent development of UNESCO World Heritage, the most influential arena of heritage preservation today, has been one of tremendous growth in all respects, and global attention demands well-founded and coherent decisions. Therefore, rules, categories, procedures and standards have greatly evolved, particularly since the 1990s, and are now the subject of specialised university studies. To a Foucauldian notion of governmentality, the steady elaboration of this new knowledge domain - that, through its influence on national heritage systems, appears to be the globally most homogenising consequence of World Heritage - is unsurprising. "Dumb power" that cares little for the carefully crafted expert terms and systems, however, continues to play a significant role, and the 2010 Committee session in Brasilia saw what could be termed a standoff between the two modes. Based on participant observation of statutory meetings, interviews with key players, and an analysis of the vast documentary record, I will explore how much power knowledge really has in the World Heritage system.

Panel P312
Making heritage, making knowledge