Heritage and Human Rights

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
10 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA V70012 Heritage and Museum Studies,
MA V70024 Heritage and Museum Studies,
MA V700MO Heritage and Museum Studies

Module description

This module will explore how conflicts over 'heritage' rights are, today more than ever, influencing critical debates over the definition of world, national, and local heritage, as well as universal, community, and individual rights.

This module will also examine the impact that tensions between communities and universal versus local values have on the management of heritage, and how these tensions might be resolved to allow sustainable growth.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To investigate the politics of urban heritage management from local, international, and global perspectives.

  • To engage with key theories of heritage (e.g. critical heritage, the authorised heritage discourse, theories of authenticity).

  • To explore the relationship between heritage and human rights.

  • To assess relationships between global regulations and local responses in the heritage contexts.

  • To incentivise interdisciplinary and critical approaches to researching and writing about heritage and human rights.

  • To develop skills of critical thinking and writing, as well as visual analysis.

  • To foster the capacity for independent research.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Demonstrate engagement with the main themes that inform the module.Compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure.

  2. Write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications.

  3. Be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them.

  4. Think laterally and creatively, identifying interesting connections and possibilities and presenting these clearly rather than as vague hunches.

  5. Maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong.

  6. Demonstrate the ability to think critically and constructively.

Module information

This module will ask: What is heritage? Who defines it? Who should control its management and preservation? How is the notion of 'heritage' used to unite or otherwise divide communities? What are some of the consequences of the ways different groups appropriate and utilise heritage? Is there a universal right to free access, expression, and preservation of heritage, and if so, how is it expressed? What are the impacts of globalisation on heritage issues?

These questions will be explored through trans-geographical and trans-historical analysis of case studies that help to define heritage as a cultural practice involved in the construction, regulation, and resolution of the different values and significance attributed to heritage, locally and globally. The module will also compare national and international frameworks and how their implementation affects local policies and practices for the management of heritage. Ultimately, the module seeks to examine which regulations and management strategies can be put in place to effectively promote cultural diversity, in the aim to make societies more inclusive, resilient, and peaceful.

Heritage is necessary for the definition and preservation of cultural identity and forms the basis of humanity's rich cultural diversity. Based on this assumption, scholars in the sector have begun to claim that heritage should be considered a fundamental human right. At stake is the question of whether heritage rights should be considered in the same way as a person's right to life, liberty, and security. Such a claim comes with contradictions, since while some groups might define a cultural practice as a human right, others may claim that that practice violates the very notion of human rights. It is clear that 'while heritage can unite, it can also divide'.


Syllabus (note: this is an example of the topics that may be covered and is subject to change):

  • Introduction. What is heritage? Why are we interested in it? Can heritage be considered a human right?

  • Preservation and management of heritage: from local to World Heritage.

  • Uses of the past: heritage and identity.

  • Threats to heritage.

  • Heritage and war: destruction, resilience, and memory.

  • Natural disasters: destruction, resilience and memory (which differences between man-made and natural destruction?).

  • The climate crises and its effects on heritage: sustainable responses.

  • New technologies as aid for protection, preservation, reconstruction, and memory recollection.

  • Presentation of outline of essay, including bibliography (formative assessment).

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour seminar per week.
  • One reading week with no seminar.

Discussion will be encouraged throughout.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   4000-word essay  24/01/2024  100% 
Practical   Presentation of essay outline (in class)    0% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr William Carruthers, email:
PHAIS PG Queries:



External examiner

Dr H Camilla Smith
University of Birmingham
Lecturer in Art History
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


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