The rise of the European far-right and the new politicization of heritage

Elisabeth Niklasson and I are looking forward to presenting the paper “The rise of the European far-right and the new politicization of heritage” at the upcoming conference Heritage Studies: Critical Approaches and New Directions. 

Abstract: Over the last two decades a new wave of far-right wing parties have fundamentally changed the political landscape in Europe. Based on a post-truth rhetoric, they have led a politics of division fueled by fear and nostalgia, projecting an image of the nation as a battleground where “natives” fight for survival against forces of globalization and non-western immigration. Just by entering into national parliaments this diverse political family have destabilized classic intraparty alliances and provoked establishment parties to bend the conversation around their specific issue-areas. One such issue area is cultural heritage.

By establishing a meaningful difference between past and present culture, far-right parties have embraced past culture as a political area of concern, with key goals such as the democratization of heritage and increased funding for the heritage sector. As a result, whereas our professional and research-based understanding of heritage and identity differs substantially from theirs, our vocabulary and priorities do not. This places heritage bureaucracies, the extended arms of national governments, in a delicate position. What leeway do civil servants in national heritage boards have to dispute agendas advanced in current politics? Can and should appeals for increased funding be rejected? And how should heritage researchers confront parallel pleas to bring heritage closer to ‘the people’?

To address these questions we draw on findings from our on-going research which evaluates the Scandinavian far-right wing parties’—all with seats in the national parliaments and one in government (Norway)—ability to impact the way heritage policy is developed and executed.

The conference takes place at the British Academy in London on 5 October 2017.

Photo: Trude Telle Dusken.