Cultivating the magical other: heritage politics and formations of modernity

Leading researcher: David Picard
Research group: Circulation and Place-Making
Type of project: Researcher contract
Status: Concluded

Main institution: CRIA
Participant institutions: n.a.
Funding: FCT
Reference: CONT_DOUT/119/CRIA/4038/10779/3/2008
Starting date: 01-09-09

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The programme I would like to develop over the next five years is interested in the mobilisation of the concept of heritage in the context of contemporary formations of modernity. It focuses in particular on issues related to the commoditisation of culture and nature as „delight-values” exchanged in the tourism contact zone, the politics and poetics of international nature conservation programmes, and the role of hospitality in identity formation processes. While it is relatively easy to analyse the ideologies and ontological grounding of contemporary heritage politics, it is less easy to understand the special „allure” of heritage that seems to make it such a successful concept in current policy making, identity formation processes, media representations and tourism. What is this „allure”? How has the concept of heritage become so successful? To approach these questions I suggest fieldwork based research on heritage formation processes in the Western Indian Ocean. Different stages of this fieldwork have been ongoing since 1998. I am focusing here, on one hand, on the significations of heritage in the cultural economy of tourism especially in terms of a transnational cultivation of „delight-values”. On the other hand, I am investigating how the concept of heritage has been mobilised by international nature conservation policy makers, and how notions of natural beauty underpin the nexus between marine science, conservation lobbies and international nature politics. Through fieldwork in Madagascar, I am studying how the concept of heritage flows in between different international, national, regional and micro-local scales of policy making and social life, and how its „magic” is ultimately captured at the micro-local level. Focusing on forms of hospitality practice at this level, I am studying how different social actors in a coastal village in South Western Madagascar establish sympathetic connections with objects, people and practices associated with international conservation politics in order to evoke the magical qualities associated with this „powerful” foreign” realm. I think that, based on these observations, I will be able to develop a paradigm of social cohesion that results less from forms of violent coercion and acculturation, than from active strategies to appropriate the „magical” qualities respectively associated with the „magical” other.

Researchers from CRIA

IDNamePositionProjTitleProject typeStatus
pub204*David PicardResearcherproj193*Cultivating the magical other: heritage politics and formations of modernityResearcher contractConcluded
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