An anarchist imagination for critical heritage studies: Prefiguring equitable and sustainable futures in crofting and beyond

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In critical heritage studies, power relations are central to the socio-political process of heritage making. The concept of the authorised heritage discourse (Smith 2006) brought to the fore the elitist nature of heritage as formulated from the top down and Robertson's (2016) heritage from below captures possibilities for counter-hegemonic challenges from the bottom up. Increasingly, heritage is also being theorised in the context of broader social, environmental and economic issues as a means to generate more equitable and sustainable heritage futures (see Harrison et al. 2020). Whilst many strands of critical theory have inspired this, anarchist thought is largely absent as a way of theorising heritage and politics. This problematically leaves the legitimacy of state power, private property models and neo-liberal politics intact, which frustrates the creation of more equitable and sustainable futures. Anarchism is an ethical political praxis that critiques the state and relationships of domination and hierarchy, emphasising ways of prefiguring alternatives in the present. Anarchist perspectives from archaeology, museum studies, anthropology, geography and sociology, provide a basis for an interdisciplinary “anarchist imagination” (Levy and Newman 2019) in critical heritage studies. This chapter details an anarchist approach to heritage and politics focusing on the concept of prefiguration and what this contributes to critical heritage studies and especially heritage futures. It then applies an anarchist imagination to an analysis of crofting, a form of agriculture and land tenure in Scotland which has been discussed through the lens of heritage from below. The chapter argues that prefiguration and anarchist thinking are useful lenses to rethink crofting as a form of collective horizontal heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Heritage and Politics
EditorsGönül Bozoğlu, Gary Campbell, Laurajane Smith, Christopher Whitehead
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781003300984
ISBN (Print)9781032292601
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2024

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks on Museums, Galleries and Heritage


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