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Critical Approaches to Heritage Studies


Admission requirements

MA-Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the mentioned master programmes, are requested to contact their co-ordinator of studies.


Who controls heritage? What is the role of heritage in the constructed narratives of nationalism? How is heritage being used as a cultural practice to shape the discourses on nation-building and nation-branding? The process of heritage-making entails various forms of conflict over the definition, ownership, and use of cultural attributes. Originally a concept coined by the nation-state, heritage has become the object of intellectual reclamation by academics, activists and associations. Institutional and non-institutional social actors in Asia and in Europe are increasingly involved in debating the legitimacy as well as the need to “safeguard” different expressions of heritage. The course will explore the genesis and working practices of international heritage administration, charters and conventions. Furthermore, the social impact of heritage themes such as diaspora, ethnicity, and nationalism will be analysed. We will also elaborate on the concepts of “collective” and “social” memory. Herewith, we will pay special attention to the museum as a facilitating actor in the process of understanding and showcasing cultural identity. You will review case studies of tangible and intangible heritage from Europe and Asia to see how heritage has taken on new and sometimes unintended meanings in the midst of social change, asserting religious identity and political upheaval. You will be encouraged to produce your own case studies and approach heritage as a growing interdisciplinary field.
The course is organised around a cluster of lectures and workshops, during which students will be actively engaged in presentations, discussions, and paper writing. Professor Michael Herzfeld, will give several lectures and will hold online office hours in the autumn of 2020.

Course objectives

  • gain insight into ideological practices creating national identities and transforming heritage under the influence of political, religious, economic and social factors;

  • recognise key issues, concepts, and international frameworks related to the disputed distinction between tangible and intangible heritage;

  • articulate your own understanding of heritage by developing a case study on Europe or Asia in which you will analyse how heritage has taken on new meanings in the midst of social and political change; you will explore the transmission of beliefs, values and collective acts of cultural remembering;

  • evaluate the international heritage discourses on transforming cultural spaces through modernization, tourism and globalization.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminar (online)

Assessment method

  • Active participation at the class meetings (including oral presentations and collective discussions): 25%

  • Critical analysis of literature and sources information (including weekly written assignments): 25%

  • Term paper (3500 words): 50%
    The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
    The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Term paper submission

The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.
Students can submit the term paper (case study) as a draft on Wednesday, 6 January 2021. The instructor will provide comments by Wednesday, 13 January 2021. The final submission should be on Monday, 18 January 2021, 12:00 noon. Late submissions will not be accepted.
All assignments should be submitted through Brightspace.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (40%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.
A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Exam review

How and when a term paper review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the course results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the course results, a term paper review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Students can read one of these books or some of the chapters of these edited volumes as an introduction to contemporary academic debates concerning heritage in consultation with the lecturer. Additional readings for each class will be listed in the syllabus and provided via Brightspace.

  • Harrison, R. 2013. Heritage. Critical Approaches. London: Routledge.

  • Silva, K. D. and Chapagain, N. K. (eds). 2013. Asian Heritage Management. Contexts, concerns, and prospects. Routledge Contemporary Asia Series. London-New York : Routledge.

  • Daly, P. and Winter, T. (eds). 2012. Routledge Handbook of Heritage in Asia. London: Routledge.

  • Fairclough, G. ; Harrison, R. ; Schofield, J. ; Jameson, J. (eds). 2006. The Heritage Reader. London-New York : Routledge.

  • Smith, L. 2006. Uses of Heritage. London-New York: Routledge.

  • Lowenthal, D. 1999. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


This has to be filled out by the key-user of the department.
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


The course is compulsory within the MA specialisation Critical Heritage Studies of Asia and Europe. Students can also engage in a Double Degree Programme, offered by Leiden University, the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and one of the Asian partner universities.