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Heritage in Palestine: Colonial Legacy in Postcolonial Discourse

Abstract

This essay addresses the need to look into ‘postcolonial’/‘post-Oslo’ Palestine heritage discourses and practices to uncover commonalities and divergences. These practices and discourses, I claim, tell a story about hidden codes of subjectivity while revealing the setbacks of postcolonial heritage discourses in a ‘postcolonial era’. I show that the Palestinian ‘postcolonial’ heritage polices and preservation practices echo colonial discourses in terms of approach, legal framework and end results. My premise is built on a long engagement with governmental and non-governmental heritage organisations as well as the literature on the topic that shows heritage discourses and practices implicated within the specific narrative that they are destined to (re) produce. I claim that postcolonial approaches to the material culture, consciously and unconsciously, reproduce the colonial situation and while the impetus towards preservation itself is a symptom of postmodernity, it is still carried out in a modernist spirit. Throughout my analysis, I show that what spills out from the heritage discourses, as well as the unintended consequences of heritage practices are worth considering in any analytical approach of heritage discourses.

Résumé

Cet essai répond au besoin d’étudier les pratiques et discours patrimoniaux dans la Palestine « postcoloniale » / « post-Oslo », pour y découvrir des points communs et des divergences. Je soutiens l’idée que ces pratiques et discours en disent long à propos des codes subjectifs sous-jacents, en révélant les retards pris par les discours patrimoniaux postcoloniaux à « l’ère postcoloniale ». Je démontre que les politiques et les pratiques de préservation patrimoniales postcoloniales palestiniennes font écho aux discours coloniaux en termes d’approche, de cadre légal et de résultats finaux. Mon postulat est construit sur un long engagement au sein d’organisations patrimoniales gouvernementales et non gouvernementales ainsi que sur la littérature portant sur ce sujet, qui montre des discours et pratiques patrimoniaux impliqués dans le récit spécifique qu’ils sont destinés à (re)produire. Je soutiens que les approches postcoloniales de la culture matérielle reproduisent, consciemment et inconsciemment, la situation coloniale. De plus, bien que l’élan vers la préservation soit en lui-même un symptôme de postmodernité, il reste mis en œuvre dans un esprit moderniste. Tout au long de mon analyse, je démontre que ce qui transparaît dans les discours patrimoniaux, au même titre que les conséquences inattendues des pratiques patrimoniales, mérite d’être pris en compte dans toute approche analytique des discours patrimoniaux.

Resumen

El presente ensayo aborda la necesidad de revisar los discursos y las prácticas “poscoloniales” / “post-Oslo” sobre el patrimonio de Palestina para descubrir coincidencias y divergencias. Argumento que estas prácticas y discursos dicen una historia sobre códigos ocultos de subjetividad revelando al mismo tiempo los obstáculos de los discursos poscoloniales sobre el patrimonio en una “era poscolonial”. Muestro que las políticas sobre el patrimonio y las prácticas de conservación “poscolonial” palestinas repiten los discursos coloniales en términos de enfoque, marco legal y resultados finales. Mi premisa se construye gracias a un largo compromiso con organizaciones gubernamentales y no gubernamentales del patrimonio, así como también al material publicado sobre el tema que muestra discursos y prácticas sobre el patrimonio implicados dentro de la narrativa específica que están destinados a (re)producir. Argumento que los enfoques poscoloniales de la cultura material, consciente e inconscientemente, reproducen la situación colonial, y aunque el ímpetu hacia la propia conservación es un síntoma de posmodernidad, todavía se lleva con espíritu modernista. A lo largo de mi análisis, muestro que vale la pena considerar, en cualquier enfoque analítico de los discursos sobre el patrimonio, lo que se desprende de los discursos sobre el patrimonio, así como también las consecuencias no intencionadas de las prácticas sobre el patrimonio

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Correspondence to Khaldun Bshara.

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Bshara, K. Heritage in Palestine: Colonial Legacy in Postcolonial Discourse. Arch 9, 295–319 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-013-9235-2

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Key Words

  • Palestine
  • Heritage
  • Preservation
  • Colonial and postcolonial discourse
  • Decolonisation