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2.1: What Are Heritages of Change?

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    Learning Objectives

    By the end of this section, you will be able to:

    • define “heritages of change,” “marginalized cultural heritage,” and “heritage activism.”

    Content Warning

    There are themes and images in this chapter, particularly related to race-, religion-, and gender-based violence and discrimination, that could be distressing to think about and/or view.

    Definitions: Heritages of Change

    In the previous chapter, we spent a lot of time thinking about, defining, and identifying heritage, so hopefully we have established a fairly clear idea of what “heritage” is. That leaves “change.” Change can have multiple meanings. It can refer to transformation. It can refer to modifying or replacing something. For our purposes, “change” encompasses action to amend inequities, discrimination, and intolerance. “Heritages of change” then are attempts to bring to the fore heritages that have been historically marginalized – forgotten, hidden, or erased.

    Marginalized Heritage

    Cultural heritage can be marginalized for a number of reasons. It can be unconscious, simply lost. More often than not, however, there are very real intentions to marginalize. By denying a group’s heritage, the group itself is either erased or minimized. Such erasure can be intentional or deliberate. For instance, due to a long-term unwillingness to acknowledge LGBTQ+ heritage, general knowledge about and understanding of the historical presence of LGBTQ+ people is limited, giving the impression that somehow this group of people are an anomaly. When we work to uncover marginalized heritage, such as LGBTQ+, we reaffirm the natural diversity of the human experience and reverse this erasure. The following is a list of categories of marginalized heritage, although by no means an exhaustive one, along with specific examples:

    Emerging Heritage (or Heritage in the Making)

    Heritages of change may also be emerging, that is heritage may be in the process of being created in our present time. An example of emerging heritage is the Black Lives Matter movement. As protests and marches take place, heritage is in the making (see chapter 1.3). We can argue that protest signs and related street art, for instance, are a form of a heritage, even though “[a]rtworks created in the streets are by nature ephemeral and have the ability to capture raw and immediate individual and community responses; the meaning of these pieces is negotiated and shifts over time” (Shirey). Yet, the Urban Art Mapping research team seeks to “document and analyze street art responding to moments of friction and crisis,” and they have a digital database of “tags, graffiti, murals, stickers, and other installations on walls, pavement, and signs” that developed around the world after the death of George Floyd. Digital methods of preservation make ephemeral heritage much easier to document. The following are more examples of current emerging heritage along with specific examples:

    Heritage Activism

    The Urban Art Mapping project asserts its purpose is to document and analyze. Other projects have more explicit goals of heritage activism, seeking active change. For example, “We Are Still Here and This is Our Story” was a 2021 exhibition in the Jessie Wilber Gallery of the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture in Bozeman, Montana. It was designed, as its description states, to “bring awareness to our nation’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People,” for “[t]here are currently 243 people documented as missing or murdered, a figure that is considered low due to underreporting and inadequate data. Of these cases, 86% are unsolved. The fight for recognition and support continues. As a nation [we] have a duty to speak out against these injustices and to the widespread loss of human life.” These types of exhibitions bring heritage together in order to incite action on the part of those viewing or studying it.

    “Heritages of change” is a type of heritage activism that focuses on emphasizing historically marginalized heritage, including that which is currently in the making.

    Discussion 2.1

    Can you think of other examples of “heritages of change,” “marginalized heritage,” “emerging heritage,” and/or “heritage activism”?

    Why might it be important to emphasize “heritages of change”?

    This page titled 2.1: What Are Heritages of Change? is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kisha G. Tracy (Remixing Open Textbooks with an Equity Lens (ROTEL)) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.