Heritage and Society

Heritage and Society covers the uses of heritage in times of rapid transformation: social, economic and political transformation.

It concerns the use of heritage to build culturally and environmentally sustainable communities, including cultural diversity and human rights.This includes: heritage of difficult histories; the ways in which contested histories are represented in heritage spaces; and theories of collective memory and contested memory

We also have a number of projects focused on making connections with the Asia-Pacific region.

For further information contact Professor Tim Winter (Executive Leader).

View our projects below.


Our Projects

Cool Living Heritage in Southeast Asia: Sustainable Alternatives to Air-Conditioned Cities

This three year project focuses on built environment sustainability in the context of rapid urban development in Southeast Asia. Casting its focus on air conditioning, the project considers how everyday material cultures and social practices associated with thermal comfort enable, reflect and constitute broader ideological abstractions of modernity, progress and development. From there it pursues a more sustainable alternative, that of a ‘cool living heritage’. The possibilities and obstacles for maintaining and reviving a wide variety of architectural and cultural practices of a pre-air-conditioning era are examined in order to consider how we might productively rethink the use of everyday technologies in relation to their wider socio-political contexts and the cultural changes necessary for more sustainable lifestyles. This Australian Research Council-funded project addresses such issues in the context of Malacca and Singapore, and is a collaborative research initiative with Dr Jiat Hwee Chang and AP Johannes Widodo, NUS, Singapore, and Professor Donald McNeill, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney.

The Crisis in International Heritage Conservation in an Age of Shifting Global Power

This project responds to the current crisis in international heritage conservation at a time of shifting global power. The flagship of heritage conservation, the world heritage system, faces multiple pressures and agendas that endanger sites and politicise decision-making at all levels, from local to global. This project focuses on four iconic sites—Abu Simbel, Angkor, Bagan and Sumatran Rainforests—and the world heritage system itself, to reveal how pressures have grown and shifted since World War II, how they operate at multiple scales and what new expertise might be introduced. It will produce a report for UNESCO and publications that include recommendations for solving challenges that threaten international heritage conservation today. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Australian Heritage Abroad: Managing Australia's Extraterritorial War Heritage

This project investigates the problems of managing and interpreting significant heritage sites in Australia’s experience of war located in foreign sovereign territory. This focus on extraterritorial concerns moves beyond existing understandings of the contexts in which heritage is contested, exposing the greater complexities of managing national heritage in an international context. It will produce strategies for advancing heritage practice, policies and theory by encouraging understanding and dialogue between stakeholders of different historical and cultural backgrounds. In doing this the project recasts nationalist understandings of heritage and provides new frames for promoting dialogue at places of profound emotional significance. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Suburban archaeology: approaching an archaeology of the middle class in 19th century Melbourne

This project has three main benefits. First, it will help Australians understand more about the richness and diversity of urban experience in the country, thereby enhancing the heritage value of Museum collections drawn from urban archaeological sites. Second, by focusing on the historical archaeology of the emergent middle class in Australia we will improve our understanding of the history of Australian society during a crucial period. Last, it will enrich the social and cultural histories of Australia through a deeper and closer integration of archaeological and written historical information. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council and is led by the La Trobe University.

Vietnam: Heritage of a Nation

This project investigates the evolution of the idea of 'Vietnam' as a political and cultural entity and the role of heritage in this process. As the deliberate selection of things from the past that have value to today’s society, or influential groups within it, heritage is analysed as a reflection of the underlying attitudes to the nation, its cultural diversity and cultural citizenship. Drawing on historical and contemporary records, the latest scholarly research and the authors’ own Vietnam expertise, the project will be lead to a book that both discusses the general history and heritage of Vietnam as well as exploring the role of heritage identification and its exploitation as a tool of the state in nation formation and maintenance. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council.

The nation at home: historic houses as a species of museum

The history of the museumisation of historic houses shows that they are strongly invested in the national project of focusing suitable identities for public remembrance and celebration. Papers to date cover the magical and religious dimensions of patriotic hero-construction, and the distinctive place of national literature and ‘national style’ in the selection of houses for museumisation. The long-term output will be a book.

Memory, heritage and collections: the significance of the Australian Army museums

Distinct from the national memorialisation of the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Army maintains a network of regional and unit museums, charged with maintaining the heritage of ADF members and their work. In seven large Regional museums, nine large Corps museums (some with multiple collections), and many Unit History Rooms, an enormous quantity of historic material - objects, images and documents - is conserved and displayed. This project surveys the history and significance of these museums to Army, ex-service people, public groups and individual visitors.

Heritage and Human Rights

This project investigates the linkages between conserving cultural heritage, maintaining cultural diversity and enforcing human rights. The three concepts cultural diversity, heritage and human rights have been researched widely over the past 60 years since the United Nations Organization (UN) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were formed (1945 and 1946 respectively) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) was adopted (1948). In the scholarly world, however, the concepts have tended to be studied separately, with the various disciplines focusing more on one concept than the others. In fact, the concepts developed alongside each other and are inextricably linked. The project aims to increase the recognition of these linkages so that a more critical approach is taken regarding the purpose of heritage conservation and the practice of heritage protection.

Identity, place and performance: returning to sites of atrocity

This project examines Holocaust survivor testimony as it relates to their return to the sites of atrocity. It explores how survivors’ re-encounters with the landscape reveals conceptions of, inter alia, community, absence and belonging in the performance of self. The project uses the Shoah Foundation Institute’s (SFI) Visual History archive (available through Monash University) and the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s Video testimony archive.

As well as exploring the role of emotion and affect in their experiences, the project is interested in the survivor’s:

  • Motivations for returning or not returning to their place of birth or the site of atrocity
  • How the visit affected their testimony and the narrative construction of their experiences
  • Understandings of, and reaction too, other visitors and their behaviour at the site of return
  • Understandings of, and reaction too, how the sites have been conserved and managed

The project attempts to situate these responses within the life-story of the individual and to ‘explore the mythologies entangled in such stories’ (Kushner 2006: 291) in all their complexity. It also aims to develop the theoretical relationship between performativity and ideas of affect within the context of people’s engagement with place (Cloke et al 2008).

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

7th April 2014