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This talk is based on an ongoing AHRC-UK research project that seeks to understand the ways that black and minority ethnic communities engage with their heritage through cultural organisations outside of mainstream institutions. Attention is drawn to how and why these organisations express cultural heritage, with heritage not always understood as buildings and objects, but as traditions and identities drawn from the past.

The research involves seven organisations in the north of England, documenting, analysing and comparing, in dialogue with case study partners, their organisational goals and practices that deploy arts and heritage expressions. The presentation discusses the ways that heritage implicated within their organisational expressions have social, pedagogical and political motivations and impacts. The heritage expressed by research participants was a process of cultural production and active ‘making’ of individual and community senses of self. Particular attention is paid to the ways that such heritage-making entails ‘borderwork’ outside of mainstream museums and arts organisations: as boundary-making (Rumford, 2006) or as contact zone (Clifford, 1997).

The talk offers insights into heritage-making as an affective process by which cultural organisers engage with roots or traditions to express creatively their place within the world, facilitate community development, and strategically assert their voices in the public sphere. It concludes with reflections on the impact of this cross-organisational research among motivated individuals sharing in networked relationships.

About the speaker

Susan L.T. Ashley is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arts and AHRC Leadership Fellow in (Multi)Cultural Heritage at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK. She is a cultural studies scholar interested in the ‘democratization’ of culture and heritage institutions, especially in relation to access and expression by minority groups.
Dr Ashley has edited the volume Diverse Spaces: Identity, Heritage and Community in Canadian Public Culture and co-edited special issues on critical heritage for the International Journal of Heritage Studies and the Journal of Canadian Studies. She has a monograph in process with the Routledge Museums in Focus series entitled A Museum in Public. She also has 20 years of experience working for culture and heritage sites across Canada.


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