CMI-UiB: Commoning, Appropriation and Dispossession: Heritage as Claim Making
The collaborative project between CMI and UiB concerns the organization of a workshop, and the publication of an edited volume on the following theme. The connection of the ‘common heritage of humanity’ or ‘humankind’ with sustainable development and the world understood as a global society is a relatively recent idea. Transcending the limits of state sovereignty, this universalizing concept represents the notion that high seas and ocean floors, outer space, the Antarctic and Arctic, World Heritage sites, human rights, and even human genomes and plant genetic resources are global commons and thus beneficial to humanity as a whole. In practice, however, the label of common heritage/global commons is predicated on particular Western geographical imaginaries, which became hegemonic on a universal scale, erasing local histories and disenfranchising local communities while vernacularizing European land-based immobile categories. More often than not, denoting the conflicting relation between ‘environmental protection’ and ‘sustainability’ – with the latter allowing ‘development’ and ‘extraction’ – the common heritage of humanity/global commons operate as a claim to assets for a particular group or polity on behalf of humanity. In order to be legible, such claims not only need to be made in legal terms but, above all, inscribe themselves in an authoritative heritage discourse. The heritage assets are turned into resources in the process, resulting in dispossession, appropriation and accumulation that is often territorially grounded. Taking the overlapping nature of heritage with economic models and the nation-state regarding the ownership, assets and resources, the project asks: How does the label of heritage produce particular claims, ownership and exclusion?
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