Agonistic Interpretation

A New Paradigm in Response to Current Developments

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

The current discourse of heritage interpretation, based on Tilden’s book Interpreting Our Heritage (1957), centres on ideas of education, materiality of heritage, expert knowledge and conservation. As such, it shares in the key characteristics of the Authorised Heritage Discourse (Smith 2006) and is subject to the same challenges that stem from definitions of heritage as immaterial, as a process and as a key factor in creating futures. The inadequateness of the Interpretive Authorised Heritage Discourse to respond to these challenges has become more apparent due to the size and speed of recent migrations. In response, I propose a new paradigm of heritage interpretation that is based on Mouffe’s (2013) concept of agonistics. Agonistic interpretation seeks to make visible the representations, meanings and emotions that underpin heritage, and to provide an infrastructure that visitors to heritage sites and museums may use to continue to build their identities and futures.

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Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

(formerly: Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures)