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How to Build an ‘Ancient Monument’ in a ‘National Landscape’

12 January 2015/by David Harvey/Tags: ancient, monument, national landscape

How to Build an ‘Ancient Monument’ in a ‘National Landscape’

Ideas and perceptions of both ‘landscape’ and ‘heritage’ lie at the heart of how identity politics are expressed and negotiated. In terms of where and how interpretations and practices of landscape and heritage come together, the most common thing to do is to categorise them along neatly bounded and essentialised spatial frameworks – usually that of the nation – in a self-referential manner. A landscape, therefore, becomes ‘Greek’ (or ‘French’, or ‘English’ or ‘Swedish’); nationalised by virtue of its supposedly self-evident ‘national’ heritage. These are heritage-landscapes that are taken for granted; that are pre-defined; and which answer questions – indeed, they must not be questioned. These are also landscapes that are usually ‘time-tagged’ – branded as ‘early modern’, ‘medieval’ or ‘ancient’; packaged so as to fit present-centred management agendas. These elements of national and temporal ‘branding’ are brought neatly together in ‘national parks’ and ‘national monuments’ – as though carefully managed 21st century landscapes and monuments are somehow not residing in the present, but actually are somehow still in the ‘medieval period’ or ‘Bronze Age’; and that Bronze Age, or perhaps Neolithic people were actually consciously ‘English’ (or ‘German’ or ‘Finnish’): consciously acting, building and maintaining these landscapes and monuments according to some sort of rule book of national performance ritual.

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