Session: #73

Theme & Session Format

Archaeological theory and methods beyond paradigms
Session format:
Discussion session (with formal abstracts)

Title & Content

Messy methods: Heritage studies and the quest for multi-methodological approaches
Heritage is at once rational and illogical, inclusive and exclusionary, feel-good and contentious, elitist and egalitarian. In other words; heritage is a mess. From time to time, in its quest to be interdisciplinary, heritage research has come to mirror the mess it studies. Principles, theories, methods for analysis and methods for data collection have blended together, and heritage is variously treated as an object of study and an analytical lens.

In contrast to social sciences where ‘how to do’ books are common currency, heritage studies is characterised by a lack of hands-on method and study guides. Stig Sørensen and Carman’s decade-old “Heritage studies: Methods and Approaches” is a noble exception. As the first comprehensive volume dedicated to heritage studies as a distinct field of investigation in archaeology, it assigned an important task to future researchers: to clarify the scope and nature of the empirical material used in heritage studies, and to develop a deeper understanding of how different analytical methods and techniques work together – recognising their advantages and pitfalls. Ten years down the line, the question is, how far have we gotten?

In this session we aim to revisit this challenge. By inviting heritage researchers to share their conceptual conundrums, empirical blunders, and methodological misfortunes, as well as their pragmatic solutions and analytical triumphs, we seek to promote more stringent multi-methodological approaches in heritage studies. That is, we want to explore when and how the multi-temporal, multi-scalar and multi-sited topic of ‘heritage’ requires researchers to combine different methods, and what it takes to make these combinations work.
Methods, Heritage Studies, Multi-methodological approaches, Heritage, Mess
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Main organiser:
Herdis Holleland (Norway) 1
Elisabeth Niklasson (United States) 2
1. Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU)
2. Stanford University