Together with Elisabeth Niklasson I have published the article “How (Not) to “Study Up”: Points and Pitfalls When Studying International Heritage Regimes” in the Journal of Field Archaeology. I don’t normally write much about the process of getting things published, but as this article originally was published the day Facebook reminded me it was seven (!) years since I handed in my PhD thesis it warrants a bit of reflection.

At the time I did the PhD, World Heritage research was a lonely business and studying contemporary heritage governance pretty unheard of in archaeology. When I returned to research some years after completing the PhD the field had completely changed – now ‘everyone’ did research on World Heritage in one way or another. But even if the number of articles had skyrocketed, one thing remained pretty much the same – few archaeologists and heritage scholars had done much in terms of reflecting on the methodological and ethical issues arising when studying those who govern ‘our common heritage’.

In between completing the PhD and returning to research luck had struck in that I had met another fellow archaeologist and heritage researcher – Elisabeth Niklasson – who had experienced much the same studying heritage policy and the EU. In 2019 we finally got the chance to spend time together at Stanford Archaeology Center to carve out some methodological reflections on studying up that we both would have appreciated during our PhDs. The process from writing to getting published of course has it twists and turns, and the review process made it pretty clear that that studying up is still far from mainstream for archaeologists. It was therefore extra gratifying to be able to push the discussion on what counts as fieldwork in archaeology in the Journal of Field Archaeology itself.  

Abstract: Archaeological fieldwork is no longer what it used to be. Over the last decades, archaeologists have begun to “study up”. Approaching regional, national, and international heritage regimes, they have empirically scrutinized how institutions and people in positions of influence shape what will count as “our common past” tomorrow. This has paved the way for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of contemporary heritage governance. It has also meant stepping onto a minefield of ethical and methodological challenges that archaeologists are often unprepared for. In this article, we address some of the points and pitfalls of investigating international heritage regimes, starting from our own experiences studying UNESCO and the EU and putting them in conversation with the experiences of other scholars studying up. By reflecting on the reasons for studying up, and discussing the hands-on challenges of access, anonymity, and research reception, we aim to promote a stronger and more transparent tradition of studying up in archaeology.

Full reference: Hølleland, Herdis & Elisabeth Niklasson 2020. “How (Not) to “Study Up”: Points and Pitfalls When Studying International Heritage Regimes”. Journal of Field Archaeology 45(3):140-152.

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