Skip to main content

MCH8552: Heritage Processes: Global Perspectives, Practices & Politics

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Joanne Sayner
  • Lecturer: Dr Joanne Sayner, Professor Peter Stone, Professor Christopher Whitehead, Dr Gonul Bozoglu, Dr Emma Cunliffe
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus (75%), A combination of: International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, UK National Committee for UNESCO, Blue Shield, British International Research Institutes, National Trust (25%)
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module aims to characterise, analyse, and critique the mechanisms that exist at local, national, and global levels for identifying, understanding, and managing heritage.

Heritage conventions, laws, norms, and policies at multiple levels (local, national, regional – e.g., European – and international) are ways of orienting practice and creating procedures that heritage sector professionals, and others with a similar, but very different, depth of knowledge and understanding, such as indigenous elders, need to be able to navigate. However, this operational dimension, that not infrequently implies there is one known heritage, is inextricable from acute philosophical and political questions about what heritage is, what values are attributed to it, why, by whom, and for whom.

The module aims to examine the place of heritage in social, cultural, economic, environmental, and political development agendas. The module will help you to understand the complex global landscape of heritage management philosophy, politics, and practice, developing deeper knowledge of key frameworks such as UNESCO’s various conventions and approaches, as well as those developed by other international bodies such as the Council of Europe, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and national governments.

To familiarise you with these, the module is themed through our understanding of the World Heritage Strategic Objectives (the so-called (‘Five Cs’):

Credibility (the authority to decide what counts as heritage and how to manage it, establishing authenticity, and achieving balanced representations of heritage)

Conservation (including decisions about what should, and should not, be conserved, and about what to do when heritage is endangered or contentious)

Capacity-building (the skills and abilities that we need to identify, manage, present and interpret heritage locally, nationally, and internationally)

Communication (managing public understandings of heritage, whether, for example, through interpretation, documentation, data repositories, or marketing campaigns)

Communities (the involvement of non-professional groups and stakeholders in processes of identifying, managing, and representing heritages).

These ‘Five C’s represent key themes in heritage management at all levels, not just at the global level of UNESCO World Heritage from which they derive, and the module uses these as lenses to understand practice in different contexts.

To the Five Cs the module adds another:

Criticality. The purpose of this is to encourage you to link your understanding of practical and policy frameworks, through which heritage is understood, organised, and managed, to a critical view of them to better understand their political dimensions. This includes issues such as inclusion and exclusion of diverse communities and heritages from public recognition, the imposition of dominant narratives, and how nation states and/or groups seek to gain cultural power through heritage practice.

What if official conceptions of, and approaches to, heritage, don’t match with those of communities? What alternative ways of living with and managing the past can we consider?

Outline Of Syllabus

You will cover the following indicative topics:

Key normative and management frameworks at different levels, from local to global, and the different, evolving conceptions of heritage that they embody and propose

Key organisations and players within heritage landscapes, from local to global

The different (but sometimes overlapping) categorisations and platforms for identifying and managing heritage across frameworks, geographies, and the internet, e.g., World Heritage, Memory of the World,‘European Heritage’, national heritage, indigenous heritage, ‘sites of conscience’, and digital repositories such as Europeana.

The technical and operational procedures involved in heritage management, from site management planning and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage to listing and dealing with heritage ‘at risk’.

The critical, political, and philosophical dimensions of heritage policy and practice.

The ways in which normative frameworks for heritage can and have been challenged, e.g., by powerful heritage organisations themselves, by communities – including minority groups or supressed majority populations, or by new research.

Instrumental uses of heritage and the potential tensions between these, e.g., by supranational agencies like UNESCO and the EU, by national governments, heritage professionals, and by local communities and groups.

Teaching Methods


Student Hours
Scheduled Learning And Teaching Activities Lecture 11 2:00 22:00 Interactive, participation expected. On campus.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching Activities Small group teaching 11 1:00 11:00 On campus
Scheduled Learning And Teaching Activities Independent study 1 60:00 60:00 N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching Activities Assessment preparation and completion 1 103:00 103:00 N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching Activities Fieldwork 1 4:00 4:00 Visit to World Heritage Site
Total       200:00  


Teaching Rationale and Relationship

The lectures are necessary to impart and discuss a complex array of organisations and processes that govern official practice in the heritage sector, as well as the interaction of tension of these with non-official bodies.

Lectures will involve overviews of heritage norms and processes as well as case studies from external sectoral contributors.

Seminars will provide the opportunity to deepen understandings in these areas, using focused examples and tasks, working closely with frameworks, and practising relevant skills.

The field visit will provide exposure to real management and other issues relating to a local World Heritage site discussed with those involved in overall, and day to day, management of the site.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment

DescriptionSemesterWhen SetPercentageComment
Case Study 1 2 A 100 Students will have a choice between:Contextual, technical, and political study of an existing heritage management example (e.g., a World Heritage listing);Proposal for a heritage management process, including technical, policy, cultural, and political awareness

Assessment Rationale and Relationship

You will have a choice between two assessments. Each one requires you to think critically and contextually, but with different balances of reflection, critique, and creativity.

Option 1 allows you to use new understandings of heritage frameworks to contextually examine a key case study of existing heritage management. This could be, for example, close analysis of the process and politics of a World Heritage/Intangible Cultural Heritage/Memory of the World nomination or listing; an evaluation of a Site Management Plan; the classification of heritage as endangered or at risk; global and localised strategies for conservation and protection; a key concept or problem in heritage management, understood historically and critically (e.g., the concepts of ‘authenticity’ and ‘community’). You do not have to limit yourself to official heritage – heritage is managed by multiple stakeholders in and outside of the official sector. For example, your case study could focus on indigenous understandings and practices of heritage, or those of other minority communities.

Option 2 allows you to use new understandings of heritage frameworks to propose a new initiative within a heritage management context. This could be the development of arguments and materials for a new nomination to a heritage list, a proposed adaptation to an existing listing (e.g., a revised Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for a World Heritage Site and a justification for it); a new approach to an existing heritage management issue; or a new proposal within existing practice, such as a new community engagement plan or safeguarding strategy.

Reading Lists

MCH8552's Reading List will be published prior to induction


Timetable Website: