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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. Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology from Harvard University and IIAS Visiting Professor of Critical Heritage Studies at Leiden University, will offer several intensive classes in October 2015.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course you will:

  • 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.


Classes every Thursday from 15.00-17.00 hrs, Matthias de Vrieshof 1, Room 001. First class: 10 September 2015

Please NOTE that there are EXTRA obligatory meetings for this course, related to special classes by the guest lecturer Prof. Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences at the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University:

Tuesday, 6 October – 17.00-19.00 hrs – Conference Room IIAS, Rapenburg 59, 2311 Leiden
Wednesday, 7 October – 13.00-17.00 hrs – Verbarium, Matthias de Vrieshof 3, Room 104
Thursday, 8 October – 11.00-13.00 hrs and 15.00-17.00 hrs- Verbarium, Matthias de Vrieshof 3, Room 104

Additional guest lectures (optional) will be announced in the syllabus.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

5ECTS = 140 hours
Lectures/seminars = 32 hours
(2 hours/week x 12 weeks + additional 4 courses (2h each) with M. Herzfeld)
Reading assignments = 58 hours
Writing assignments (case study and final paper) = 50 hours

Assessment method

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

  • Critical analysis of literature and sources information: 25%

  • Paper writing: 50%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Yes, Blackboard will be used for:

  • Describing, uploading, and grading the assignments;

  • Uploading teaching materials (e.g. power point presentations);

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 Blackboard.
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.


Through uSis


Email: mw. Dr. Elena Paskaleva


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.