Discourses of sustainability within archaeological heritage management


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Howard, Sarah (2019). Discourses of sustainability within archaeological heritage management. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This research takes a critical discourse approach to examining the concept of sustainability within archaeological heritage management (AHM) literature and spatial planning policy, to investigate how different discourses on sustainability and sustainable development have influenced the frameworks within which AHM is undertaken in England. Through the analysis of international sustainable development policy and national environmental and heritage policy, two potential discursive frames for the concept of sustainability were observed. One follows an eco-modernist perspective that considers cultural heritage much in the same way as natural resources, within a functional resourcist framework. This encouraged the economic valuation of externalities such as the environment and culture to enable them to be brought into the market for the purposes of national accounting as demonstrated by the UK government from the late 1980s. The other represents a wider ‘cultural turn’ within the humanities and science that sought to locate the concept of development within local and specific cultural contexts, to ensure they were ‘culturally sustainable’ in the sense of being appropriate for a locale and its communities, as well as being socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. Within international sustainability discourse in relation to culture, archaeology has often been ostracised because of its historical associations with colonialism and the spread of western notions of culture, but this denied AHM as itself a culturally contingent practise. What this research has shown, is that the way the materials and practices of archaeology have been discursively constructed as environmental resources or assets for development, has influenced the way the concept of sustainability has been understood and applied. From the 1990s UK AHM deliberately sought to discursively align itself with natural environment auditing and management approaches through a common lexicon of environmental resourcism. This introduced a particular frame for understanding the historic environment, that emphasised the economic value of heritage as a contributing factor to environmentally and economically sustainable forms of development using culture as an instrument. A parallel discourse can be observed in relation to specifically archaeological heritage, that focused on the social sustainability of management practice by advocating public participation and rhetoric of participatory democracy. Whilst this ensured that archaeology was and continued to be socially supported, it did not encourage reflexivity in terms of whether approaches to AHM were culturally relevant. It is concluded that archaeology has much to offer in terms of the critical appraisal of the concept of place and various frames that are used to interpret and manage the historic environment, especially in challenging uncritical conceptions of beauty and aesthetics that the author has observed in recent professional heritage management discourse.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved Creative Commons: Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/9201


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