2016 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as well as the U.S. National Park Service Centennial. Over the last half-century, the effects of the NHPA and the expansion of the National Park Service have radically reshaped urban cities and communities across the nation. An outcome of the accelerated preservation projects and policies in the late 1960s and 1970s was that previously ignored and marginalized locales became potential candidates for local, state, and federal registries. This course will be an anthropological investigation into the productive tensions that emerge from the unstable, but useful category of heritage preservation, through which individual, community, and national attachments and imaginaries – economic, cultural, political – are produced, undermined, reproduced, and resisted.
Given that representations and interpretations of history are political and have longstanding consequences with regard to both perpetuating, and undoing social inequality, the course’s guiding question is: How have race, class, and gender intersected in the field of historic preservation in the United States over time? This question will be considered at the local and national level as it relates to historiography, funding, grassroots organization, legislation, and the labor market, and will be complemented by similar inquiries in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
Readings for this course are at intersection of anthropological literature on cultural heritage production, gender, and place, with a particular focus on the urban context. This seminar relies heavily on student participation, in the forms of engaged reading, class discussion, and intensive written work.