European Commission - 7th Framework Programme European Museums and Libraries in/of the age of migrations last updated: February 2015

What does heritage change?

7-10 June 2016

Montreal, Canada | Université du Québec à Montréal; Concordia University


The Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS), launched a call for papers for the his Third Biannual Conference, to be held in Montreal, Canada, in June 2016.
As a network of scholars and researchers working in the broad and interdisciplinary field of heritage studies, the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) promotes heritage as an area of critical enquiry by promoting dialogue and networking between researchers from different fields and disciplinary backgrounds and between researchers, practitioners and activists.

The field of heritage has emerged as a key site of reflection. Influenced by shifts in the academy (e.g., postcolonial, poststructural, and feminist theories), heritage scholars are bringing increased attention to the deployment of heritage as both a conceptual category and a contested field of power and discourse. Nevertheless, significant challenges remain in communicating what comprises the theoretical and methodological toolkit of heritage studies. Scholars are still mapping out the nuances and contexts of critical heritage as a distinct theory, and grappling with what exactly heritage is and why it constitutes a valid area of investigation. This changing vision of heritage as a (quasi-) independent field of study is promising, as it brings increased attention to the political and social contexts of heritage, and how heritage engages theories of development, postcolonial theory, rights and justice, and ecology.


Reflecting on “what does heritage change” and the current state of the fieldits theorists, its practices, and its promisesone critique could be that heritage studies lacks a rigorous theoretical or methodological approach. It is something of an irony that so little discussion has been devoted to the intellectual heritage of heritage studies. What theoretical foundations hold the field of heritage studies together and compose its core? What intellectual roots stabilise the field into a coherent endeavor? At the same time, what are the edges of its innovation? As a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary arena of collaboration and intellectual “poaching,” heritage studies has thrived at the edges of innovation vis-à-vis well-established disciplines. However, as with most interdisciplinary fields, this could be a strength as well as a weakness, and heritage studies stands vulnerable to criticisms of having a weak or even “vacuous” core, or engaging in intellectual dilettantism. In this session we propose it is only by mapping its core theoretical strengths, embedded in a critical intellectual tradition, that we can assertively push forward in innovating along its edges.

Moreover, locating heritage studies in the critical tradition articulates with important debates on how the identity and expertise of the professional heritage scholar is being reconstituted and reimagined. This session continues those debates, and argues that such discussion is most productive when engaging heritage professionals both inside and outside the academy. After all, a major premise of critical heritage theory is to include voices from inside and outside academia, and to provide more interactive models, with mechanisms to identify theoretical and substantive insights and intervene in contemporary debates.
The Conference enquires about the manifestations, the discourses, the epistemologies, the policies, and the stakes of heritage, as a phenomenon, a symptom, an effect or a catalyst, tool of empowerment or leverage, physical or intangible restraint or kick-off, in a community, a society, or any material or mental environment. Subthemes range from gender-related issues to identity-making, mythologies of cultural diversity and the rethinking of heritage policies beyond the authorized heritage discourse.
With this 2016 edition, the organising Committee wish to broaden the field of heritage studies by bringing innovative reflections from scientific and praxeological areas as diverse as possible. They seek to strengthen critical heritage studies as an inclusive area of theorisation, investigation, decision-making, and practice.


Hosted by the Canada Research Chair on Urban Heritage at University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), in partnership with the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, the third Conference will take place in both universities located downtown Montreal.

» link to the Conference website

» Call for papers