Heritage, Preservation, Destruction. Trajectories of an Entangled History

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Hybrid: Room P.Sc2 and online via Microsoft TeamsFree

This seminar is presented by Dr Mirjam Brusius.

The Respondent is Dr Jennie Morgan and the Chair is Professor Sally Foster.


What does it mean to preserve heritage? This talk will take a diachronic view of ‘heritage’ practices from the nineteenth century to current destruction and conflicts. It will focus on heritage-making in today’s ‘Middle East’, where archaeology has played a key role in memory formation. However, many heritage sites have their origins in colonial contexts; they were created by way of processes which segregated material culture and the societies around them.

These realities defy the disciplinary baggage, canons and categories and prevailing methods and concepts in heritage studies. How can scholars move beyond teleological narratives that prioritize institutionalised knowledge? What did local resistance against colonialism look like, and indigenous engagement with material culture?

Treating preservation and destruction as historical phenomena, which were rarely exclusive but rather connected in crucial ways, the lecture will argue that a historical understanding of ‘heritage’ is crucial for a better assessment of contemporary heritage and museum discourses today.


Speaker: Dr Mirjam S. Brusius (PhD Cantab)

Dr Mirjam is a cultural historian and Research Fellow in Colonial and Global History at the German Historical Institute, a 2022 laureate of the prestigious Dan David Prize in History, and in 23/24 Visiting Professor at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, having previously held posts at the University of Oxford, Harvard University and MPIWG Berlin. Her publications concern the movement of visual and material culture between Europe, Asia, and Africa. At stake are material biographies of empire and the questions they raise about heritage and memory culture in the contemporary world.

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