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Heritage, diversity and the legacies of empire

This symposium will investigate the ways that legacies of empire inform approaches to heritage and diversity in Europe. Bringing together scholars and practitioners from a range of disciplines and countries, the workshop will analyse how ideas about diversity have developed in response to global debates and local situations. While it is clear that international bodies, including UNESCO, ICOM and the EU have had an important role in developing frameworks, much less is known about the ways institutional circumstances and local political contexts lead to a great variety of approaches. Are processes institutionally or audience-driven? Which theories of diversity underpin heritage practices? How important are the legacies of empire in this process? And which parts of the imperial pasts are emphasised or refuted as heritage? The symposium will think about how to approach these questions transnationally, compare cases, highlight connections and develop directions for future research.

The symposium is co-hosted by the Isambard Centre for Historical Research and the Brunel Heritage Research Network, Brunel University London, the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, London, and the Frontières du Patrimoine : circulation des savoirs, des objets et oeuvres d’art / Borders of Heritage Project (Paris), organized at the Georg Simmel Center-EHESS with support from the Centre interdisciplinaire d’étude et de recherche sur l’Allemagne (CIERA).

For those wishing to attend, the symposium will conclude with a guided tour of the Africa collections in the British Museum on the morning of Saturday 18 May.


11: 00 – 12:30 International Frameworks

Chair: Tamson Pietsch (Brunel University)

Philip Murphy (Institute of Commonwealth Studies): Welcome

Astrid Swenson (Brunel University): Introduction: Heritage and Diversity in Europe

Isabelle Vinson (UNESCO): Diversity and the International Heritage Protection framework: a contribution to the research debate

12:30-13:30 Lunch

13:30- 15:00 Old and New Institutions,

Chair: Inge Dornan (Brunel University)

Hélène Ivanoff (Centre Georg Simmel-EHESS, Paris) : The European appropriation of artefacts during the colonial period: the Frobenius’s example in Nigeria’

Dominique Poulot (Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris I) : Collecting for contemporary society: an agenda for the “musées de société” in France’?

Sam Aylett (Brunel University): The British Commonwealth Museum

15:00-15:30 Coffee

15:30-17:00 Communities and Publics

Chair: Astrid Swenson (Brunel University)

Barbara Knorpp (Brunel University): Film as Heritage? An Ethnography of the National Film Archive (British Film Institute)

Philip Murphy (ICS), Defending Britain’s: “Christian Heritage” or celebrating diversity? The troubled history of the Commonwealth Multi-Faith Observance’

Leonard Catherine (National Trust) : Cultural diversity in the National Trust movement

17:00- 18:00. Concluding Roundtable: Comparisons and Research Perspective


Chair: Astrid Swenson (Brunel University), Discussants: Rebecca Madgin (Leicester), Dominique Poulot (Paris), Sara Selwood (London)


Institute for Commonwealth Studies
Room 349 Senate House - Malet St,
London, WC1E 7HU


Astrid Swenson



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