Module HTH-3124:
Heritage and Identity

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Karen Pollock

Overall aims and purpose

The past - both its material remains and our cherished myths - is increasingly being commodified as 'heritage'. As such, material land immaterial culture is constantly being used both as a resource to sustain a modern industry and also to underpin the social, cultural and political identities of individuals, groups, regions, places, nation states, and globally. Heritage can often be associated with minority groups and dominant elites and this unit will examine the various arenas through which these identities are communicated, ranging from museums and the practice of archaeology, to oral culture and memory. We will therefore trespass quite freely over traditional disciplinary boundaries and discuss topics relevant to history, archaeology, political science and sociology. However, you need to keep in mind the main theme of the course: what is the role of material and immaterial culture in the construction of identity? With this aim in mind, we will examine the role of heritage in the shaping of a whole range of individual and group identities, both in contemporary society and historically. We will begin with looking at how humans, in general, use the past, both their own individual life history and culturally transmitted accounts of the communal history, to create their own realities and identities. Following this, we will look at various sorts of identities and how heritage is used - or misused - in their creation, looking at a wide range of case studies covering topics like national identities, racism and identity, religious identity, linguistic identity, professional group identities, local identities, minority and elite group identities, the globalisation of 'western' identity, and will pay a visit to the supermarket of individual identity creation, as well as having a look at how heritage was used to create identities in the past. Although heritage is usually a benign force, we shall focus on the idea of contested' ordissonant' heritage, where the legacy of the past has been used, intentionally or accidentally, as a source of social or political conflict and division

Course content

Individual, group, local, regional, national and global identities; museums; political and cultural role of archaeology and history, the heritage in minority groups, the heritage of elites, oral culture, heritage and the nation state, the creation of heritage-based identities in past societies

Assessment Criteria


will demonstrate an appropriate range or depth of knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partly-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies.


will be show a solid level of achievement in all the criteria in the paragraphs above.


will show this solid achievement across the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis.

Learning outcomes

  1. The ability to employ primary evidence will be fostered through a special teaching session on this, feedback in coursework essays, and the list of sources of primary evidence in the bibliography. (Outcome 5)

  2. The ability to answer degree essay questions will be promoted by coursework feedback. (Outcome 4).

  3. The ability to form and present arguments about aspects of the role of heritage in the construction of identities, and to back them with evidence, will be promoted by experiencing argument in reading and lectures, by student practice in seminars, and by discussion of issues arising from the field trip.

  4. The ability to analyse documentary evidence or a specific heritage site and discuss its relevance to wider issues within heritage studies will be gained through directed reading, through lectures (which will constantly explore the link between heritage and broader debates within history, archaeology and current political issues) and through seminar discussions (seminars concentrate on specific individual or group identities, nation states and heritage sites) and a field trip.

  5. Knowledge of the role of heritage in the construction of individual and group identities will be gained through directed reading, through lectures, through seminars and a field trip (Outcome 1)

  6. Awareness of varying contributions made by heritage to different forms of identity will be gained through directed reading, lectures and seminar discussions (each of which will focus on the role of the various aspects of heritage in creating different forms of identities). The ability to discuss the merits of various approaches will be fostered by reading, analysis of interpretations in lectures and discussion and judgements in seminar discussions.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Essay 1 3000-4000 words 50
Essay 2 3000-4000 words 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Seminar 9
Fieldwork 8
Private study 172
Lecture 11

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions
  • engaging with relevant aspects of current agendas such as global perspectives, public engagement, employability, enterprise, and creativity


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Introductory bibliography P. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology 16. (1977) M. Diaz-Andreu and T. Champion (eds.), Nationalism and Archaeology in Europe. (1996) J.M. Fladmark (ed.), Heritage and Museums: Shaping National Identities. (2000) J.M. Fladmark (ed.), Heritage and Identity. Papers presented at the 2001 Heritage Convention. (2002) L.C. Garro, ‘The remembered past in a culturally meaningful life: remembering as cultural, social, and cognitive process’. In: C.C. Moore and H.F. Mathews (eds.), The psychology of Cultural Experience. (2001): 105-50 J.R. Gillis (ed.), Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. (1994) B. Graham, G.J. Ashworth and J.E. Tunbridge, A Geography of Heritage. (2000) B. Graham & P. Howard (eds.) The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity (2008) P. Graves-Brown, S. Jones and C. Gamble (eds.), Cultural Identity and Archaeology. The Construction of European Communities. (1996) H. Härke (ed.), Archaeology, Ideology and Society: The German Experience. (2000) D.C. Harvey, ‘Heritage Pasts and Heritage Presents: temporality, meaning and the scope of heritage studies’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 7:4 (2001), 319-338 D.T. Herbert (ed.), Heritage, Tourism and Society. (1997) S. James, The Atlantic Celts. Ancient People or Modern Invention? (1999) S. Jones, The Archaeology of Ethnicity. (1997) R.A. Levine and K. Norman, ‘The infant’s acquisition of culture: early attachment reexamined in an anthropological perspective’. In: C.C. Moore and H.F. Mathews (eds.), The psychology of Cultural Experience. (2001): 83-104. D. Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country. (1985) D. Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. (1996) D. Lowenthal, Natural and cultural heritage, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 11:1 (2005), 81-92 McLean, F., Introduction: Heritage and Identity, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 12:1, (2006) 3-7 Merriman,N. 2004. Public Archaeology, Oxon: Routledge K.R. McCone, Pagan Past and Christian Present in Early Irish Literature. Maynooth Monographs No. 3 (1990) B. W. Porter & N.B. Salazar, Heritage Tourism, conflict, and the public interest: an introduction, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 11:5 (2005), 361-70 S.J. Shennan (ed.), Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity. (1989) N.A. Silberman, ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem: Archaeology, Religious Commemoration and Nationalism in a Disputed City, 1801-2001’. Nations and Nationalism 7 (2001): 487-504. E. von Glasersfeld, Radical Constructivism. A way of knowing and learning, (1995) Waterton, E. & L. Smith, The recognition and misrecognition of community heritage, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 16 Nos. 1-2 (2010), 4-15

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: