Whose Heritage: Contested Cultural Sites
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Department: Social Sciences
Course Number: NANT 3633
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Visual Culture
- Cultural Studies
What does "culture" mean to those who produce it and those who consume it as tourists? Can sites, objects, and their histories simultaneously belong to a local community, a nation, and all humanity? How do culture-specific museums operate in a global context? How do mainstream museums address diversity? This course is an examination of the phenomenon of cultural heritage from an anthropological perspective, pairing specific cultural sites with questions central to anthropology. We begin with sites in New York City, including the American Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, Ellis Island, the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Weeksville Heritage Center. We then consider the meaning of "world heritage" and "universal value" as defined by UNESCO and focus on some of its World Heritage sites, including Chichen-Itza in Mexico, Angkor in Cambodia, Ghana's El Mina Slave Fort, and Pharaonic and Islamic monuments in Egypt. Through our case studies, we link the local to the global, exploring the role of public memory; the representation of racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual identities; the role of archaeology in constructing national identities; indigenous ownership of material culture; performance theory in historical re-enactment; and symbolism and iconography in site marking and the marking of tragic histories, such as slavery and wars. Field trips to New York City sites are scheduled throughout the term.