The act of remaking one's history into a heritage, a conscientiously crafted narrative placed over the past, is a thriving industry in almost every postcolonial culture. This is surprising, given the tainted role of heritage in so much of colonialism's history. Yet the postcolonial state, like its European predecessor of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, deploys heritage institutions and instruments, museums, courts of law, and universities to empower itself with unity, longevity, exaltation of value, origin, and destiny.
Bringing the eye of a philosopher, the pen of an essayist, and the experience of a public intellectual to the study of heritage, Daniel Herwitz reveals the febrile pitch at which heritage is staked. In this absorbing book, he travels to South Africa and unpacks its controversial and robust confrontations with the colonial and apartheid past. He visits India and reads in its modern art the gesture of a newly minted heritage idealizing the precolonial world as the source of Indian modernity. He traverses the United States and finds in its heritage of incessant invention, small town exceptionalism, and settler destiny a key to contemporary American media-driven politics. Showing how destabilizing, ambivalent, and potentially dangerous heritage is as a producer of contemporary social, aesthetic, and political realities, Herwitz captures its perfect embodiment of the struggle to seize culture and society at moments of profound social change.
"This book is a bold, sweeping and imaginative argument on the centrality of 'heritage games' in the contemporary world... Each essay is brimming with insights, interesting facts and observations making them highly readable in their own right, or together." — Thomas Blom Hansen, Stanford University
"A work of ebullient imagination, zest, and wit, Heritage, Culture, and Politics in the Postcolony explores the double life of heritage in the making of modern political identities—as both the fixed capital of national hegemony and the fluid currency of novel visions and claims. The book may evoke an aura of timeless homage, but heritage is also a riff in real time. In this acute exploration of its recent, postcolonial iterations, Daniel Herwitz shows that while its role remains much the same, its substance is constantly, ingeniously changing." — Jean Comaroff, Harvard University
"Herwitz's book is an important work in aesthetics, for the fate of aesthetics since the eighteenth century is remarkably similar to that of heritage. Both transmit tradition, yet they're also expected to usher in modernity, which signals a break from tradition. So long as these rivalrous demands cannot be reconciled, heritage and aesthetics remain objects of anxiety. In addition, they're inseparable from the histories of colonialism, nationalism, and capitalism, yet they're expected to offer political critiques of them. In the end, all these demands are analyzed by Herwitz in an engaging and eloquent fashion." — Michael Kelly, author of A Hunger for Aesthetics: Enacting the Demands of Art
"Thoughtfully crafted and elegantly written, this book is pleasant reading for everyone interested in learning about the status of cultural studies around the world.... Recommended." — Choice
1. The Heritage of Heritage
2. Recovering and Inventing the Past: M.Â F. Husain's Live Action Heritage
3. Sustaining Heritage Off the Road to Kruger Park
5. Renaissance and Pandemic
6. Tocqueville on the Bridge to Nowhere
Read the introduction, "The Heritage of Heritage" (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner):