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Introduction to heritage studies



This course is an introduction to the themes and methods of Heritage Studies as an interdisciplinary field of studies. The course starts with an introduction to ‘what is heritage’, followed by an exploration of the basic concepts in this field: heritage, identity, community, culture, universalism and relativism, the global and the local, colonialism and the nation-state, cultural continuity and cultural transformation, human rights, ownership, among others.
Such concepts taught are based on case studies in order to connect the theoretical literature with concrete examples of heritage issues and heritage practice in the contemporary world.

The course then introduces you to 4 methods or areas of heritage research that can be used to investigate the fundamental concepts and issues that were introduced in the first part of the course, being:
1) Research into primary (written) sources (legal instruments, literature) in combination with bibliographic research;
2) Participatory research with communities;
3) Museum research and research with experts from non-traditional backgrounds;
4) Research with and about media (videos, songs, documentaries etc).
Where relevant, parts of the MOOC Heritage Under Threat will also be used.

Course objectives

  • To understand what heritage is;

  • To understand the basic concepts of heritage studies: identity, community, culture, universalism, relativism;

  • To know the methodology used in this field of research;

  • To understand the relationship between heritage and global challenges such as migration;

  • Understand the role of historical encounters between various peoples of the globe in heritage and collections.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA1 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Group seminars.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14x2 hours of lectures (2 ec);

  • 14x4 hours of seminars (2 ec);

  • Assignments (3 ec);

  • 360 pages of literature (3 ec).

Assessment method

  • Assignment (40%);

  • Exam (60%).

There is only a retake of the written exam, and only if all other requirements have been met and all assignments have submitted.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA1 examination schedule.

Reading list

To be announced on the first day of class.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Registration 'Contractonderwijs'

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).


For more information about this course, please contact dr. I.R. Simpson.


Compulsory attendance.