Wednesday 25 January 2017 – Lunchtime seminar with Dr Helen Graham (University of Leeds)

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Speaker: Dr Helen Graham (University of Leeds)
Title: Governance of heritage and heritage practices in governance: Co-production and futures

Helen Graham is Associate Professor in In/tangible Heritage and Director for the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage at the University of Leeds. Helen’s research and teaching interests directly flow from working in learning and access teams in museums and coordinating community heritage projects concerned with the co-production of knowledge, archives and exhibits. Helen’s current research explores questions of democracy and publicness through the technical, practical and ethical sites of co-production of knowledge and exhibits, of intellectual access to museums for people with learning difficulties and of copyright and informed consent. Helen has recently acted Principle Investigator on an Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities Research project, ‘How should decisions about heritage be made?’ which has explored ‘how to increase participation from where you are’.

‘Heritage’ is made and remade through a number of political dynamics. Each of these dynamics contain a variety of political potentials, these potentials have at times included centred, government-led, institutional, expert-led, posterity-orientated ‘on behalf of’ logics. Yet each also has consistently been shown to make available political and intellectual resources that can be deployed to decentre, contest and create alternative forms of governance.

The history of York (UK) includes many documented instances of activist resistance to the kinds of developments which, to give some key examples, proposed to remove parts of the medieval city wall (mid-19th century; 1940s), demolish terrace housing, widen roads or build multistory carparks (1960s-1970s) or make changes to create space for restaurants, hotels or shopping centres (1990s-present day). Very often these campaigns, and their explicit evocation of ‘heritage’ in their arguments, have been characterized by their opposition as reactionary, against both change and progress. In this context heritage appears to be simply a move against a bad future, of not-that, rather than offering specific alternative visions.

While these campaigns have tended to be against specific proposals, a shared thread is frustration with the way local authority plans are developed and decided. The claims ‘heritage’ is used to make can be read as being deployed not only against specific demolitions or changes but also against the failures of liberal democratic process to. Drawing on an ongoing action research project My Future York, this paper will give specific form to the negative space around oppositional activism to argue that these campaigns have been implicitly in favour of a more democratic, proactive space in which ideas for the city’s future can be generated, developed and agreed. Specifically, the My Future York project has been an experiment in how we have might more explicitly turn the negative space into positive political tendencies and how this might offer alternative approaches to local authority planning and consultation models.

My Future York has been part of the Arts and Humanities Connected Communities Utopia Festival 2016.

1.00PM – 2.00PM


See here for details of other seminars in the series.

All SHU staff and students are welcome to attend the C3RI Lunchtime Research Seminars. If you are from outside of the University and would like to attend a seminar, please email C3RI Administrator to arrange entry.