Feebleness of the reach of heritage management

Sharing goods collectively for the common interest
Waiting for the Fatherland Day parade in Reyes (Jujuy, Argentina)

The multiple meanings of heritage generate practical difficulties in discussions where wording is the protagonist, when adopting or debating postures, or when proposing developments that, in a way or another, affect it. Heritage is constructed as a part of a relevant field of situated perspectives and dispute, that being personal or from a specific sector of people, then the use of the different meaning attests of a stance and intentionality, with a reach that exceeds the involvement of heritage assets related to each context and circumstance in particular. Usually, the different pretentions of incumbency around heritage assets of a society are introduced simultaneously, and then the disputes can reach remarkable proportions.

Porto Alegre, Brazil
Porto Alegre, Brazil

This situation is presented repeatedly by hand of the ever-growing commodification of culture (including and sustained by tradition and traces of the past) led by propositions around tourism; the use of heritage assets as an argument in sustaining rights that come off identity postures (like nationalism or indigenism) and their regard of it as a stand out factor in economic development and quality of life of the population (by designating and accommodating places for public shared use).

Ponte di Guadua, Bogotà (Colombia)
Guadua bridge, Bogotà (Colombia)
Memory, identity and heritage

The difficulties that the diversity of use and interpretation of the concept of heritage brings, are increased by the close association that frequently is related to memory and identity, each of them is assigned to variables of the meanings created around social representations of cultural and natural assets.

Looking for reading in La Plata (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Looking for reading in La Plata (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Memory, identity and heritage nourish and are based mutually, as the origin of arguments and public debates related to situations and assets associated with the past they had (or would have) placed in a determined territory. Even though these categories have recognized individual meanings, for this subject in the three cases we´ll use their collective o communitary meaning.

Gaucho lunch at León (Jujuy, Argentina)
Gaucho lunch at León (Jujuy, Argentina)
Heritage collective property

The proliferation of meanings assigned to heritage, about its senses and collective property, is a reflection of tensions and considerations originated around what is understood as welfare of the community. In our society, public and indispensable services (like transportation, electric power, drinking water, health, justice and education) have clearly assigned roles of lender/consumer and, with that, affect the mechanisms that make the flow of money and distribution of responsibilities. On the contrary, everything associated to heritage assets, their incumbency and attributions are burred and get resolved in case by case bases, in a random way, according to context and circumstances.

Wagon in northern Chile
Wagon in northern Chile
The social relevance of heritage

In most cases of the possible activation and management of heritage assets they stay in an indefinite situation that could become permanent. The limited room that our time’s society gives to sharing assets collectively, that are oriented to the common interest and benefit, it’s the Achilles’ heel of the management of heritage, and is paradoxically the point that makes the argumentative bases to justify their alleged big social relevancy. Besides, the signs of heritage management in a district are part of the terms in which ideology dominant powers are expressed, and then, to know about them is in itself a wide situational analysis of the society all together.

Jorge Kulemeyer

Jorge Kulemeyer

Degree in Anthropology, specialisation in Archaeology, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Museum, National University of La Plata (Argentina). Diploma of Advanced Studies (D.E.A.) at the Institute of Quaternary Geology, University of Bordeaux I (France). Doctorate (Ph.D.), Institute of Prehistory, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cologne (Germany). Post-doctorate at the Faculty of History, Federal University of Goias (Brazil). Full Professor at the National University of Jujuy (Argentina).