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Volume 28

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World Heritage on the Ground

Ethnographic Perspectives

Edited by Christoph Brumann and David Berliner

336 pages, 16 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-091-9 $99.00/£70.00 Hb Published (April 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78533-092-6 eBook

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“[This volume] is offering what it promises, meaning a perfect articulation of two equally legitimate approaches: a top-down one, investigating UNESCO’s World Heritage as a global institution, and a grass-roots one, searching for local applications and implications of patrimonial decisions taken up-there.” · Anuac Journal

“This is a fascinating volume whose contributions analyze, highly critically for the most part, various aspects of the effects of World Heritage nominations. It enables new insights into the problematic nature of World Heritage and shows in what way different interest groups for different reasons get involved in World Heritage locations, be it out of nostalgia, financial interests, political opportunism or as location for religious activities.” · Sociologus

“The anthology presents case studies not only useful for furthering the field of heritage studies, but also for opening up the field of heritage to the anthropology of international institutions.” · Heritage & Society

“This strong new collection of essays on World Heritage sites illustrates the point well, that what institutions intend or believe, and what governments claim, are often not what we observe in practice.” · Anthropology Review Database

“This is one of the most important current books in cultural heritage studies to date, a must-read so engrossing and compelling that it is truly a page-turner. Its greatest strength is the evidence each author provides of the value of ethnography in this field. If only UNESCO’s World Heritage bureaucracy, the affiliated States Parties representatives, and national heritage authorities would read it and be moved to pursue greater equity for the local stakeholders whose needs are clearly legitimate yet rarely accommodated.” · American Ethnologist

“This is a useful volume, providing much needed case studies while remaining clearly focused and thought provoking.” · Marie Louise Stig Sorensen, Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

“This volume will be appreciated for its rich case studies, which develop a comparative understanding of heritage impacts—a crucial task for the interdisciplinary field of heritage studies.” · Regina F. Bendix, European Ethnology, University of Göttingen

“International experts and national representatives hold the most sway in defining World Heritage sites and their likely social impact. This book focuses precisely on how such definitions of heritage are objectified and circulate in public usage.” · Michael Rowlands, Department of Anthropology, University College London


The UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1972 set the contemporary standard for cultural and natural conservation. Today, a place on the World Heritage List is much sought after for tourism promotion, development funding, and national prestige. Presenting case studies from across the globe, particularly from Africa and Asia, anthropologists with situated expertise in specific World Heritage sites explore the consequences of the World Heritage framework and the global spread of the UNESCO heritage regime. This book shows how local and national circumstances interact with the global institutional framework in complex and unexpected ways. Often, the communities around World Heritage sites are constrained by these heritage regimes rather than empowered by them.

Christoph Brumann is Head of the Urban Anthropology Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany, and Honorary Professor of Anthropology at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

David Berliner is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

Subject: General Anthropology General Cultural Studies Museum Studies


List of Illustrations

Introduction: UNESCO World Heritage – Grounded?
Christoph Brumann and David Berliner


Chapter 1. Affects and Senses in a World Heritage Site: People–House Relations in the Medina of Fez
Manon Istasse

Chapter 2. 'UNESCO is What?' World Heritage, Militant Islam and the Search for a Common Humanity in Mali
Charlotte Joy

Chapter 3. Heritage-making in Lijiang: Governance, Reconstruction and Local Naxi Life
Yujie Zhu

Chapter 4. Multiple Nostalgias: The Fabric of Heritage in Luang Prabang (Lao PDR)
David Berliner


Chapter 5. Thinking Globally and Acting Locally in the Angkor World Heritage Site
Keiko Miura

Chapter 6. One List, a World of Difference? The Dynamics of Global Heritage at Two Neighbouring Properties
Noel B. Salazar

Chapter 7. Civilization and the Transformation of Xiaotun Village at Yin Xu Archaeological Site, China
Shu-Li Wang

Chapter 8. The Business of Wonder: Public Meets Private at the World Heritage Site of Chichén Itzá
Lisa Breglia


Chapter 9. Decolonizing the Site: The Problems and Pragmatics of World Heritage in Italy, Libya and Tanzania
Jasper Chalcraft

Chapter 10. The Values of Exchange and the Issue of Control: Living with (World) Heritage in Osogbo, Nigeria
Peter Probst

Chapter 11. Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape: Extractive Economies and Endangerment on South Africa's Borders
Lynn Meskell


Conclusion: Imagining the Ground from Afar: Why the Sites are so Remote in World Heritage Committee Sessions
Christoph Brumann

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