Heritage and nationalism

Allen, Richard (2010). Heritage and nationalism. In: Harrison, Rodney ed. Understanding the Politics of Heritage. Understanding global heritage. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 197–233.

URL: http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/catalog...


This chapter explores the relations between heritage and nationalism particularly in the period after the change from colonial rule to independence in India. It does this through three case studies – the Taj Mahal, the National Museum in Delhi, and the Babri Masjid (or Babar’s Mosque) in Ayodhya. India is a large and diverse country, and the approach is selective. The chapter does not aim to consider the relationship between heritage and nationalism across India as a whole. All three case studies are from central-northern India. This approach provides for a degree of depth in the treatment and enables understanding as certain themes recur. The case studies also raise issues concerning the basis on which heritage is to be defined. Is it, as perhaps in the case of the Taj Mahal, on the basis of aesthetic criteria or on the basis of historical significance that is unrelated to nationalism (one might argue that the Taj Mahal is part of the heritage of Afghanistan and Iran more than India)? Nationalism is a political force. To what extent are political ideas an appropriate means of defining whether or not an object is heritage, and how are they to be compared with, for example, arguments from archaeology? The concluding discussion relates issues raised by the case studies to the question of the relationship between heritage and nationalism more generally.

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