In a museum local to me, there is a film playing by the entrance. An actress, in character as a citizen of the Roman empire, introduces herself and describes her background, likes and dislikes, and religious beliefs. It’s rather like the two-minute introduction to a contestant in a reality show. At the end of the … More The people of the past: part 2
Science is not – and can never be – apolitical. Moreover, anthropology and archaeology as a discipline originated in colonial contexts. How should we now navigate issues of ownership with regard to human remains in cultural collections? … More The people of the past: part 1
The shared community of fanship has increased exponentially as the internet permits the creation of communities of interest regardless of geographical distance. For these communities, shared works of fiction function as the intangible heritage which created and connected the members. They share an emotional link to characters, places or events which they have simultaneously all experienced, yet have never physically visited. … More A heritage in words
It is Halloween. The veils between our world and the world of the supernatural are thin. Our streets will be filled with strange, other-worldly apparitions demanding bribes to leave nearby humans in peace for another year. Normal religious belief systems are overtaken by anti-religion, the otherworldly forces devoted to disruption, ahierarchy, and the subversion of Christian morality. … More An invisible heritage
I have been thinking recently about concepts like vintage, familiarity, and the fundamental temporality of aesthetics. The unthinking ability of people to interpret familiar items and symbols within a socialised construction of their meaning is something I’ve discussed before, but the power of these constructs to change imperceptibly yet often rapidly can still surprise me. … More But world enough and time
In 2014 Prince William is said to have told primatologist Jane Goodall that he would like to see all ivory in the Royal Collection destroyed.
How much worse would the furore have been if he had instead said that given the choice he would return all artefacts taken during colonial conquests to their country of origin? … More Why is ivory less acceptable than colonial acquisitions?
From 1984 to the Hunger Games, the future has been a blank sheet which writers can use to show the dystopian possibilities of current situations. Yet apart from dire warnings about the consequences of climate change, government surveillance, and rebellious AI, the future is unpeopled, blank where the past is vivid scenery. … More New Year, old mindset: how heritage can change the way we see the future
In many ways, the Christmas we celebrate is more about the ritual than the religion itself. But perhaps it is worth remembering that religion can, itself, be a heritage to celebrate, whether or not it seems objectively true to you as an individual. … More An atheist Christmas