ARMHCP-Contemporary Issues and Debates In Heritage and Cultural Property (Ma)

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2022/3

Module Convenor: Dr Alanna Cant

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module focuses on the concepts, institutions, politics, and legal claims of heritage and cultural property in the contemporary world. You will develop a detailed understanding of the historical development of these concepts and the national and global institutions, such as English Heritage and UNESCO, through which they are promoted. You will develop a critical understanding of the political, economic, social and environmental issues and debates surrounding heritage and cultural property, both in class and through independent research. You will also develop a comprehensive understanding of how heritage has become an important global industry premised on economies of tourism and heritage site conservation. By looking at different cases of heritage and cultural property, you will investigate such questions as: What is the relationship between heritage, identity and the nation-state? What happens when culture becomes a resource? Can the concept of cultural property afford the protections that indigenous and minority groups seek? What are the consequences of natural and human made threats to heritage sites? Course materials will primarily be academic texts and documentary films about specific cases from all over the world. The module will be delivered through a series of lectures, seminar sessions, and documentary films, with a strong emphasis on independent research.  It will also include presentations by guest speakers who work in the heritage industries.


  • To introduce and consolidate students’ knowledge of the history and contemporary features of heritage and cultural property.

  • To enable students to understand and critically assess important terminology in the heritage industries, such as “intangible heritage,” “cultural appropriation,” and “repatriation.”

  • To enable students to develop their own critical perspectives on the political, economic and legal issues that emerge in particular contexts of heritage and cultural property.

  • To enable students to understand the relationships between the concepts of heritage, identity, property and ownership, and the implications of these in today’s world.

  • To provide students with concrete examples of career paths and employment in the UK heritage sector, and to enable them to find further employment information and resources.  

Assessable learning outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the concepts, terminology and institutions used by the heritage and cultural property industries.

  • Identify and systematically assess the conceptual and legal tensions between different aspects of heritage and cultural property.

  • Critically evaluate the social, political, environmental and economic effects or issues that can arise around heritage and cultural property.

  • Use concrete examples to effectively illustrate or provide evidence for the points above.

  • Demonstrate an ability to undertake self-directed research into the topic of the course.

Additional outcomes:

  • To consolidate students’ research, writing and argumentation skills.

  • To consolidate students’ presentation/public speaking skills.

  • To allow students to focus on an in-depth case study (individual case study report assessment), enhancing their knowledge about a particular place and set of problems.

Outline content:

The course will begin with two sessions focusing on the history, concepts and institutions of heritage and cultural property before turning to specific conceptual themes, which are addressed in one session each. Students will select specific topics to investigate through their individual assessments and in-class presentation.   Topics that may be covered include: heritage and nationalism; economies of heritage; heritage of indigenous and minority groups; repatriation; negative and difficult heritage; cultural appropriation and heritage at risk. The range of topics covered is enhanced by guest lectures from professionals working in the UK heritage sector.  

Background Reading List:

Colwell, Chip and Charlotte Joy. 2015. ‘Communities and Ethics in the Heritage Debates.’ In Global Heritage: A Reader, Lynn Meskell, ed. London: John Wiley and Sons, pp. 112-130.

Geismar, Haidy. 2015. ‘Anthropology and Heritage Regimes.’ Annual Review of Anthropology 44: 71-85.

Hafstein, Vladimar and Martin Skrydstrup. 2017. ‘Heritage vs. Property: Contrasting Regimes and Rationalities in the Patrimonial Field.’ In The Routledge Companion to Cultural Property, Jane Anderson and Haidy Geismar, eds. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 38-53.

Hodder, Ian, 2010. ‘Cultural Heritage Rights: From Ownership and Descent to Justice and Well-being.’ Anthropological Quarterly 83(4): 861-882.

Global context:

Evidence and examples are drawn from cases across the world, as well as global institutions. Students may select their own case study for their individual case study report from any location in the world, provided there is sufficient literature and resources.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, documentary film screenings, and directed reading. Prepared participation by all students in the seminars is expected.

As a 20-credit module, the module should involve 200 hours of study time: attending lectures and seminars; reading and preparing for seminars; and reading for and preparing your coursework. You should therefore expect the following sort of workload:

  • 30 hours : Contact hours in formal teaching sessions (lectures, dedicated masters-level seminars, guest lectures and film screenings);

  • 100 hours: Weekly reading (general background reading, note taking from key texts etc.) (i.e. 10 hours/week)

  • 70 hours: Reading and writing of individual coursework assignments.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (directed) 60
    Preparation for presentations 5
    Preparation for seminars 40
    Preparation of practical report 50
    Essay preparation 15
Total hours by term 200 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 30
Report 60
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Topics for your assessed coursework will be driven by your own interests and independent research. You will complete one critical literature review, including an annotated bibliography (30%) on one of the themes from the course. This review may form part of the research base for your individual case study report (60%). You will also prepare and deliver one seminar presentation (10%). 

Formative assessment methods:

Formative feedback on general seminar contributions will be provided during the discussion seminars.

Penalties for late submission:

The below information applies to students on taught programmes except those on Postgraduate Flexible programmes. Penalties for late submission, and the associated procedures, which apply to Postgraduate Flexible programmes are specified in the policy “Penalties for late submission for Postgraduate Flexible programmes”, which can be found here:
The Support Centres will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

A mark of 50% overall

Reassessment arrangements:

  • Reassessment in August for all coursework.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books:  None

2) Specialist equipment or materials:  None

3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:  None

4) Printing and binding:  None

5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:  None

6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:  None

Last updated: 22 September 2022


Things to do now