The Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism promotes critical approaches (scroll down) to heritage and tourism studies.
While ICHT takes a global approach to the subject, we focus primarily on North American (United States and Canada) and Pacific Northwest Coast issues, particularly in maritime British Columbia and Washington State.
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ICHT takes its general philosophy from critical theory. In particular, we are motivated by the manifestos of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies and the International Critical Geography Group. Those organization’s statements of purpose are reproduced below (sources at bottom).
Association of Critical Heritage Studies Manifesto
This is a preliminary manifesto – a provocation – presaging the creation of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies and its initial conference at the University of Gothenburg in 2012. We want to challenge you to respond to this document, and question the received wisdom of what heritage is, energise heritage studies by drawing on wider intellectual sources, vigorously question the conservative cultural and economic power relations that outdated understandings of heritage seem to underpin and invite the active participation of people and communities who to date have been marginalised in the creation and management of ‘heritage’.
Above all, we want you to critically engage with the proposition that heritage studies needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, which requires the ‘ruthless criticism of everything existing’. Heritage is, as much as anything, a political act and we need to ask serious questions about the power relations that ‘heritage’ has all too often been invoked to sustain. Nationalism, imperialism, colonialism, cultural elitism, Western triumphalism, social exclusion based on class and ethnicity, and the fetishising of expert knowledge have all exerted strong influences on how heritage is used, defined and managed. We argue that a truly critical heritage studies will ask many uncomfortable questions of traditional ways of thinking about and doing heritage, and that the interests of the marginalised and excluded will be brought to the forefront when posing these questions.
The study of heritage has historically been dominated by Western, predominantly European, experts in archaeology, history, architecture and art history. Though there have been progressive currents in these disciplines they sustain a limited idea of what heritage is and how it should be studied and managed. The old way of looking at heritage – the Authorised Heritage Discourse – privileges old, grand, prestigious, expert approved sites, buildings and artefacts that sustain Western narratives of nation, class and science. There is now enough sustained dissatisfaction with this way of thinking about heritage that its critics can feel confident in coming together to form an international organisation to promote a new way of thinking about and doing heritage – the Association of Critical Heritage Studies.
In doing so, the conferences and the association can build on and promote existing critical innovations and interventions in heritage.
What does this require?
- An opening up to a wider range of intellectual traditions. The social sciences – sociology, anthropology, political science amongst others – need to be drawn on to provide theoretical insights and techniques to study ‘heritage’.
- Accordingly to explore new methods of enquiry that challenge the established conventions of positivism and quantitative analysis by including and encouraging the collection of ‘data’ from a wider range of sources in novel and imaginative ways,
- The integration of heritage and museum studies with studies of memory, public history, community, tourism, planning and development.
- The development of international multidisciplinary networks and dialogues to work towards the development of collaborative research and policy projects.
- Democratising heritage by consciously rejecting elite cultural narratives and embracing the heritage insights of people, communities and cultures that have traditionally been marginalised in formulating heritage policy.
- Making critical heritage studies truly international through the synergy of taking seriously diverse non-Western cultural heritage traditions.
- Increasing dialogue and debate between researchers, practitioners and communities.
- The creation of new international heritage networks that draw on the emerging and eclectic critique of heritage that has given rise to Critical Heritage Studies.
International Critical Geography Group
A world to win!
The International Critical Geography Group (ICGG) comprises geographers and nongeographers committed to developing the theory and practice necessary for combating social exploitation and oppression. We believe that just as the world’s geography expresses its multifold social relations, changing these social relations requires a dramatic remaking of local and global geographies.
- We are ‘Critical’ because we demand and fight for social change aimed at dismantling prevalent systems of capitalist exploitation; oppression on the basis of gender, race and sexual preference; imperialism, national chauvinism, environmental destruction.
- We are critical because we refuse the self-imposed isolation of much academic research, believing that social science belongs to the people and not the increasingly corporate universities.
- We are critical because in opposing existing systems of exploitation and oppression, we join with existing social movements outside the academy aimed at social change.
- We are critical because we seek to build an alternative kind of society which exalts social differences while disconnecting the economic and social prospects of individuals and groups from such differences.
- We are ‘International’ because we believe that for too long it has been possible to divide people with similar interests on the basis of national difference.
- We are international because the social systems and assumptions of exploitation and oppression, as expressed in the celebration of ‘globalization’, are international.
- We are international because we are multicultural.
- We are international because we want the world.
- We pursue our critical internationalism through ‘Geography’ because we believe real geographies express and naturalize social inequality much as social systems make the geographic world in their image.
- We are critical and internationalist as geographers because the discipline has long served colonial, imperial and nationalist ends by generating the ideological discourses that help to naturalize social inequality.
- We work as geographers because we believe that knowing the world in its detail and its geographical differences, from the local to the global scale, is a vital key to confronting political power.
- We work as geographers because constructing an alternative society is inevitably about building the new social, political and economic fabric of local and global places.
The ICGG seeks to include theorists, researchers, and activists throughout the world who identify with this broad commitment to socio-geographical change. We will meet regularly at rotating venues which are envisioned less as academic conferences than as workshops using widely varied formats. We strongly encourage regional and local organization of workshops, conferences and groups affiliating with the ICGG as vital building blocks of an international agenda. Our slogan, ‘A world to win’, therefore has a triple meaning. It expresses our political ambition in geographical terms; it indicates the global breadth of that ambition; and it makes clear that changing the world requires a lot of work but that victory is there for the winning.
See also: Smith, N. and Desbiens, C. (1999) “The International Critical Geography Group: Forbidden Optimism?” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18, 379-382.