Chapter 1: Rethinking heritage, but ‘from below’
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Despite the burgeoning array of studies that have taken ‘heritage’ as their focus of concern, particularly in terms of how the past has been folded into present-oriented objectives, as well as the myriad politics associated with this, there has been comparatively lesser attention on heritage as enacted, practised and experienced on the ground, particularly those that take less visible forms and spearheaded by non-state agents either as producers or consumers of the said past. Even as these have emerged, they frequently do not go beyond romanticizing how these instances of ‘heritage-from-below’ (HFB) have served as checks to what Laurajane Smith refers to as formal ‘Authorized Heritage Discourse’ (AHD) even as there may be instances where the HFB produced not only reproduce dominant official discourses or are themselves motivated by the need to erase or forget the past. Not only does this oversight obscure alternative contexts in and through which the past may be valued within society today, it also misses out on (a more critical investigation of) the more quotidian practices, motivations and performances of heritage-making taking place especially within (in)formal spaces. In the light of this, the first part of the introductory chapter highlights the aims and rationale of the edited book in terms of (a) why there is a need to consider ‘heritage from below’ particularly from a more critical perspective, (b) how this agenda is situated and positioned within the literature on ‘heritage’ (within cultural geography, critical heritage studies and the wider social sciences), as well as (c) charting the trajectories that this may take. Following this, the rest of the chapter introduces the different case studies that make up the edited book with respect to how each speaks to the key trajectories of the book.

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