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Decay Without Mourning: Future-thinking Heritage Practices - New Grant for Lize-Marie van der Watt

Published Jul 08, 2021

We are happy to announce that Lize-Marie Hansen van der Watt was granted in the call Global Issues - Integrating Different Perspectives on Heritage and Change. In a joint call for proposals Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, together with Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo and Volkswagen Foundation, granted eight projects a total of 11 million euros.

Lize-Marie has been a researcher with the Division since 2016 and is currently the PI of the project On Creating Cultural Heritage in Antarctica  where she together with Kati Lindström explore the processes through which cultural heritage production is used to create collective memories of Antarctica. Also in the new project, Lize-Marie team up with Kati.

Read more about the call on Riksbankens Jubileumsfond's homepage.

Decay without mourning: Future-thinking heritage practices - summary

The project proposes foregrounding decay as the central concern raised by the notion of heritage. The present moment is marked by decay: extinction and climate change, ecological anxiety, pandemics and destruction[SS1] . Technology is developing at a pace more rapid than human comprehension can sustain. How can this present of accelerated change and simultaneous decay become, in theory and practice, part of heritage strategies geared towards an unknowable future?

The aim of the project is two-fold:

  1. To theoretically engage with cultural heritage by shifting the focus away from the assumption that heritage should be primarily concerned with halting decay or rescuing material from loss. Instead, we argue that heritage should be grounded in the present, as a practice fundamentally shaped by the processes of decay.
  2. To test this proposition practically through: curatorial interventions; performances and exhibition making; alternative strategies of archive and museum making, collecting and preservation, information processing and distribution; and public engagement with ongoing preservation and heritage debates. 

Ours is a new network that draws on a wide variety of expertise in geographical areas often neglected in English-language research, each with unique socio-political and socio-environmental conditions making them rich sites to study decay: South Africa, Japan, Brazil, and Antarctica. We investigate different domains including archives and museums, heritage practices, landscapes, indigenous knowledge, food heritage, environmental history, and nature conservation. Far from being incommensurable, we argue that this multifaceted understanding of heritage will lead to more robust and generative understandings of decay in a globalised, yet also localised world.

Focussing on decay and its particular manifestations in the geographical reach of this project could produce new value-constructs that potentially may?, can?, will? reshape dominant paradigms of heritage practices and conservation in the age of the Anthropocene.

Lize-Marie Hansen van der Watt, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Lizabé Lambrechts, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Fernanda Pitta, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil
Decay without mourning: Future-thinking heritage practices
€ 1 437 200

Belongs to: Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
Last changed: Jul 08, 2021