Janna oud Ammerveld
Climate change and the future
of European heritage
This research is based on the understanding of climate change as a hyperobject. A term originating in the work of philosopher Timothy Morton, which implies that climate change as a phenomenon does not only manifest physically, as the weather, nor as a set of statistical data, or as records of climate shifts, but simultaneously as a discursive, and social agent within networks (Morton 2013).
For this research these networks consist of the heritage policy making agency organizations which work on the national level in England (Historic England) and in Sweden (Swedish National Heritage Board). To study what climate change changes in these networks, the research revolves around the question:
How do heritage policy makers engage with climate change and how do they act and react in response to the contemporary and future issues connected to this ‘hyperobject’?
Via ethnographic fieldwork at these two organizations, the research explores how these policy makers respond to climate change, how they frame climate within their existing work and in their corporate mission, and what action climate change initiates. To do so, it starts with looking at what is happening now and what has happened so far with- in the organizational network since climate change has become part of their rationale. Although actions and discussions are mostly happening within their own organizations, the involvement of Historic England in Climate Heritage Network shows that the heritage sector is also willing to take the next step and to give voice to what heritage has to offer in the climate change debates in a variety of other people’s and organization’s agendas.
In next stage, the research will reflect on how these responses either complement or dispute current societal discourses that are taking place, e.g. protests taking place in the UK by Extinction Rebellion, and the ‘School strike for the climate’ initiated by Greta Thunberg in Stockholm. Via this approach, the research will explore what understanding of climate change and of heritage is supported by these organisations.. Finally, it also tries to shed light on what possible other narratives their work could support, hence speculating about the potential of heritage in a variety of possible futures, either dark or optimistic.
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