University of Leicester
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Commemoration of national heritage : institutional practices and legitimising strategies

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:45 authored by Denis. Lavoie
The writer discusses various strategies that heritage bureaucrats and heritage commodifiers, acting as the main agents in the field, present to justify the importance they are granted in the commemoration of national heritage. Heritage bureaucrats and heritage commodifiers claim legitimacy from staging heritage activities that are recognized as such by the public in audience and for being legally authorized to do so. Both also resort to invectives and analogies to consolidate their position, or deny their competitors the right to be there. Heritage commodifiers claim that their productions bring wealth to society. In turn, wealth secures political unity, social consensus, and meanings for all to share. Heritage, a property in the public ownership, can be made to profit as if it were private property - a patrimony, and cultural resources can be traded as commodities. Heritage brings wealth to commodifiers, to those who agree with the idea of making heritage pay, as they transform their investments into symbolic capital - the right to define reality in the field and in society, and to have others abide by their definitions. Bureaucrats are entrusted with the management of the City's heritage resources because of their proven expertise in the field, and their commitment to the democratic process that managing the public wealth implies. Heritage bureaucrats create traditions, exemplary characters and meanings which they put on display as if they were fetishes. Failing to sustain their claim to effectiveness and efficiency, they revert to the field's most ancient tradition, and stage heritage celebrations as if they were religious commemorations. The writer takes after Bourdieu, Weber and Balandier, amongst others, to define the true nature of heritage commemoration through practices and strategies. His main sources are official publications and heritage productions from Canadian Heritage organisations.


Date of award


Author affiliation

Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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