School of Natural and Built Environment

Heritage as Commons in Post-Conflict States

Research Theme: Place, Well-being and Healthy Environment
Supervisors: Dr. Neil Galway (n.galway@qub.ac.uk), Olwen Purdue (School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics)

This project will explore how heritage is at the core of contemporary urban dynamics and urban conflicts. Urban heritage meets us in different shapes and contexts: in strategic branding and marketing of places and sites, whole quarters and areas, individual buildings or archaeological sites. Urban heritage confronts scholars and policy makers alike with a number of questions and dilemmas about how to deal with tangible-and-intangible aspects of the city. These questions are potentially divisive in post-conflict societies which are comprised of multiple heritage communities as whilst “heritage can build bridges, it can as easily emphasise gulfs” (Fojut 2009: p.18). When investigating the relationship between heritage and identity, the overarching and ubiquitous question of “whose heritage?” (Hall 2008) is central to the philosophical and practical challenges facing heritage decision makers in contested environments today. The prioritisation of the most traumatic events in the cultural memory of the heritage communities leads to an affirmation of Hegel’s view that “periods of human happiness and security are the blank pages of history”. In post-conflict societies, how can heritage be utilised to create inclusive and tolerant national narratives that reflect the cultural diversity of society? This project will focus on detailed analysis of heritage is utilised in Northern Ireland, specifically Belfast and Derry / Londonderry, to represent the memory and identity of the region’s ‘heritage communities’ (Fojut 2009) in its ‘Authorised Heritage Discourse (Smith 2006), supplemented with comparative international practice. It will also involve an exploration of international practice in post-conflict heritage interventions to identify how heritage can be utilised as a tool for creating shared understandings of history in contested environments.  The project will utilise a mixed methods research design that will incorporate a variety of qualitative research techniques including detailed archival analysis, a multi-disciplinary literature review, physical survey work, stakeholder analysis and semi-structured interviews.

How to Apply