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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