Heritage & Revolution: First as Tragedy, then as Farce?


18th Annual Cambridge Heritage Research Group Seminar

Heritage and Revolution: First as Tragedy, then as Farce?

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

6 May 2017

From the French Revolution in the eighteenth century, to the communist revolutions in the twentieth century in Russia, China and Cuba, to the Kurdish and Arab revolutions in the twenty-first century, heritage has been in the crosshairs of aspirations to change and utopian constructions of possible futures. Thus, beyond iconoclastic violence, the post-revolutionary moment is often also one of co-opting heritage in order to reconstruct and enshrine a selective version of the past and its link with the present and future.

This research seminar will explore the unique and complex relationship between cultural heritage and revolutions, two concepts with seemingly opposed temporal connotations. Our aim is to examine the shifting conditions of heritage production in revolutionary moments and their aftermaths, focusing on three key dynamics:

1. The revolutionary attempt to break with the past and its material remains, including the outcomes of this process in postrevolutionary heritage theory and practice.

2. How the will to break with the past is often frustrated by the new regime's very dependence on this past, either juxtaposed against visions of a utopian future or used to legitimize new forms of domination and social structuration.

3. The commonalities and differences across a variety of revolutionary processes in terms of their attitudes to cultural heritage, focusing on the theoretical grounds underpinning revolutionary and post-revolutionary heritage discourses and practices.

By exploring the relationship between cultural heritage and revolution, this seminar will contribute to the expanding body of work in Critical Heritage Studies by going beyond the specific case studies to search for the underlying theoretical and practical logics of the tense dialectic between heritage and revolutionary processes.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to Alba Menéndez Pereda (am2455@cam.ac.uk) by 14 February 2017.

To register for the seminar, please write to Flaminia Bartolini (fb282@cam.ac.uk).


All text, and image, above via the Cambridge Heritage Research Group Bulletin, Issue dated 19 December 2016.

For further information and updates please see the seminar webpage at http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/about-us/heritage/CHS18