Nature-Culture Linkages in Heritage Management

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Course Description: 

In the late twentieth century, mainstream heritage discourse began to expand its scope beyond the materiality of historical monuments but also into the natural domain. This process produced new concepts such as the idea of cultural landscapes, which themselves had limitations. Some other important ideas were taking shape in parallel including the notions of intangible cultural heritage, biodiversity conservation, cultural diversity, and sustainable development. Along with critiquing the concept of the cultural landscape, binaries such as nature and culture and tangible and intangible elements within the heritage domain have been also challenged in contemporary heritage discourse. In practice, however, there is still a tendency for professionals to overlook the role and association of natural aspects as integral parts of cultural heritage conservation. The situation is largely the same for nature conservation efforts as the focus is mainly placed on the role of the natural sciences and not on the cultural aspects of communities dependent on those natural resources.  In fact, elements of nature and culture are inextricably linked and entangled with each other, critically impacting the real-time lives of communities across the world.

International institutions with a mandate of safeguarding natural heritage are now putting efforts into including associated cultural contexts into their scope and vice versa. However, considering the practical implications of these theories, the Critical Heritage Discourse has had a different take on these issues and, thus, looks at heritage beyond the artificial constructs of nature and culture.

This course aims to explore the complexities of nature-culture linkages in the context of heritage management interventions by a) discussing the theoretical issues within the existing discourses of cultural and environmental heritage, and b) through some case studies, highlighting the opportunities and challenges of implementing an integrated approach on the ground.


-       Students will be asked to respond to the reading-related questions posted on Moodle every week before each class. 40%

-       Class Attendance and Participation. 20%

-       Final paper based on the presentation (40%): Students are expected to choose a case with nature-culture linkages; share the background of the chosen context and describe the interdependency of natural and cultural aspects.  In the case of existing heritage management interventions, students can analyze them with any of the theoretical and/or practical approaches discussed during the course. Finally, students should conclude their paper with their own recommendations on possible interventions. (2500 words max).

Reference Books:

  • Reconnecting Natural and Cultural Capital. Joint Research Centre (
  • Liljeblad, Jonathan, and Bas Verschuuren, eds. Indigenous Perspectives on Sacred Natural Sites: Culture, Governance and Conservation. London: Routledge, 2019.
  • Lowenthal, David, and Kenneth Olwig. The Nature of Cultural Heritage, and the Culture of Natural Heritage. Routledge, 2013.
  • Brown, Jessica, Nora J. Mitchell, and Michael Beresford. The Protected Landscape Approach: Linking Nature, Culture and Community. IUCN, 2005.
  • Harrison, Rodney, Caitlin DeSilvey, Cornelius Holtorf, Sharon Macdonald, Nadia Bartolini, Esther Breithoff, Harald Fredheim, et al. Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices. UCL Press, 2020.
  • Hong, Sun-Kee. Biocultural Landscapes, 2014.