In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section "Imagining a Better Future through Place": Geographies of Memory and Heritage

  • Introduction

Geography "Imagining a Better Future through Place": Geographies of Memory and Heritage
Mark Alan Rhodes II, Emma Wuepper
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 August 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0267


While the current surge of geographies of memory and heritage may appear to be a recent phenomenon, foci on questions of and work within memory and heritage follow the field of geography across the twentieth century. Heritage, in particular, while often perceived to be the realm of the anthropologist, archaeologist, or historian, also owes much of its existence today as a field and practice to geography, particularly in the British emergence of heritage studies. Both memory and heritage center around concepts geographers often find core to our discipline: place, landscape, regional and national identity, nation and state building, travel and tourism, urban planning, and development. While certainly important to the broader study of geography, the discipline does not solely bind and hold these concepts. Regardless, neither memory nor heritage studies as fully emerged fields of study in their own right rest upon geography (or any single discipline) and have increasingly transitioned from their interdisciplinary beginnings toward what many hope to see as their transdiciplinary future. Even stepping back and exploring memory and heritage as concepts leads to the inevitable branching of conflicting and pluralized definitions as we wield the terms to discuss processes of shaping, interpreting, communicating, obscuring, and reworking how the past is framed; the intersecting space-time of material culture; or the social consciousness or constructedness of past experiences. Whether studying (or shaping) these concepts as social processes, material discourses, institutionalized structures, or community values, such work spans far beyond the geographer. While we hope to center the role of geographers, particularly in recent veins of memory and heritage research along the lines of absent presence, the more-than-representational, discussions of power, and creativity in practice, it’s necessary to step back and outline the broader intersections. With this flexibility and transdisciplinarity in mind, this article lays out four primary sections of direction: theoretical and methodological framings, the move toward the more-than-representational, critical geographies, and institutionalizations.

Theoretical and Methodological Framings

Given that the breadth of memory and heritage spans decades of theoretical and methodological exploration within and across disciplines, identifying one theory or method of memory or heritage solely within geography is impossible. However, tracing these concepts back academically to heritage’s origins in geography and anthropology and memory’s origins in political science, history, and sociology contextualizes ongoing debates today. Likewise, the emergence of ever-more complex and involved memory and heritage methods, which try to grapple with these slippery concepts, further illustrates the standing of memory and heritage within geography today.

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