Call for papers ― Local Democracy Otherwise: Activating Alternative Futures in Heritage Cities

We are calling for contributors for a panel for the Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies, taking place from 26 to 30 August 2020 at University College London.

The overall conference theme is Futures and this panel would be submitted to the Urban Heritage Futures strand.

Popular visions of future cities, both past and present, have privileged tall buildings, complex transit networks and technological innovation. Seldom do the images associated with historic centres or world heritage sites – castles, ruins, city walls – form part of the visual language of the future.

On the other hand, heritage conservation principles assume the persistence and continuity of these entities, while the inhabitants of heritage cities often draw from the past in imagining liveable futures.

Such contradictions raise questions about the dynamics of persistence and change in heritage cities as a specifically democratic resource, and reveal a productive tension that might be activated in local democracy.

The panel will explore the generative potential of heritage cities through discussion of the following themes:

Local democracy: How can heritage can be used to enable people to speak and create spaces for democratic and collaborative inquiry?

Planning: How can the way heritage mixes continuity and change be used for future planning?

Utopian thinking: What might be opened up by looking at city futures that never happened? How can a mode of thinking otherwise about heritage cities – stories of what people hoped for – aid us in having these conversations?

Redistribution: How can heritage be used to make visible and articulate the inequalities produced by heritage in ‘heritage cities’ and help develop modes of local redistribution?

Activating methods: What methods for heritage studies and heritage practice might be prompted by these lines of inquiry?

Please send abstract of your paper proposal (250 words) to Helen Graham or Liz Stainforth (Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage at the University of Leeds).

The deadline for proposals for this panel is 28 October so we have time to make the conference deadline by 31 October. If you want to have an informal conversation about your paper proposal in advance of submitting it, please get in touch.

More information about the Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS 2020) can be found here.


1930s photograph of Poplar Grove in New Earswick in York. New Earswick – an innovative estate developed by Rowntrees for their workers – is often evoked in discussions about present day interventions in York’s housing inequalities. Image credit: York Explore.