Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage is a “social and political construct encompassing all those places, artefacts and cultural expressions inherited from the past which, because they are seen to reflect and validate our identity as nations, communities, families and even individuals, are worthy of some form of respect and protection.” (Smith & Akagawa 2009: xii).

What is cultural heritage?

Anything we consider worth of taking care of and preserving for future generations is part of our cultural heritage. It consists of the collective selection of cultural elements by a certain community. Therefore, the composition of any list or collection of cultural heritage is subjective and liable to change.

Often cultural heritage, e.g. a tradition, is part of discussions on appropriation and national identities. “Heritage represents the meanings and representations conveyed in the present day upon artefacts, landscapes, mythologies, memories and traditions from the past. It is a key element in the shaping of identities, particularly in the context of increasingly multicultural societies.” (Graham & Howard 2008, cover jacket).

So-called difficult heritage refers to “a past that is recognised as meaningful in the present but that is also contested and awkward for public reconciliation with a positive, self-affirming contemporary identity” (Macdonald 2009, 1).


Brian Graham and Peter Howard (2008) The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity. Farnham and Burlington VT: Ashgate.

Sharon Macdonald (2009) Difficult Heritage. Abingdon: Routledge.

Laurajane Smith and Natsuko Akagawa (2009) Intangible Heritage. Key Issues in Cultural Heritage London & New York: Routledge.