Intersectional Critical Heritage Studies
History is never harmless and neutral. How history is being used today, how it is created and what it does to people and societies are important questions to ask. Especially contemporary official heritage institutions are main actors constituting the public stories of the past. An important part of the growing academic research field Intersectional Critical Heritage Studies is to examine the driving forces behind the processes of construction and use of history, who’s history is included and who’s excluded in the official narratives, and how can a more inclusive and diversified way of using cultural heritage be applied that has the potential to tell alternative stories of the past. The point of departure is a quest for how we construct and use history today, analysed from a perspective of intersectional critical heritage studies, and a search for new understandings of the past. The aim of the strand is to deconstruct the intersectional institutionalized norms being embedded in the official historiographies narrated in and by the official heritage institutions – such as museums of history and historical sites and buildings.
The precursors of the welfare society
Some people might think: Why bother about cultural heritage? It is such a limited and marginalized field compared to other cultural arenas, such as film, theatre, teve etc . One reason for examining the field of cultural heritage is that it has its roots deep down in the modern project. It goes along with concepts such as rationality, messurability and truth. This implies that it has a very high credibility. If you, for instance, go to a museum of cultural history or history you do not expect to get an individual and subjective view of the past. On the contrary you expect to learn the truth about the past. One way of understanding heritage institutions is to see them as privileged places for constructions of a true past (Grahn 2018).
Our point of departure is that we understand cultural heritage as constructed and created by several actors in this field. There are some main actors and others that are more peripheral. Among the main actors are those that have a real influence over this sector which have been named as the authorized heritage writers, who are mediating the authorized heritage discourse (AHD) (Smith 2006). Characteristic of this authorised voice is among other things that it has a strong voice that is focused on the seemingly rational things. But when scrutinized closely it becomes clear that it is mostly focussing on a rather limited part of the male majority’s heritage. This we will among other things see below.
This paper will be emphasizing one of the authorized voices, namely the Swedish National Heritage Board, and more precise, their register of the built environment. In this paper I will look closely at the Swedish National heritage board’s work with protecting buildings. I have been examining the buildings that are protected by law in Sweden, by investigating the Bebyggelseregistret / The register of protected buildings. We will do this analysis from an intersectional perspective, which means that we will try to see how various social categories work together to include the built heritage of some social groups and to exclude others.
Protection of historical buildings is the strongest way to safeguard built cultural heritage can get in Sweden. Often you can get the impression that it is something inherent in the artefacts that make them special. That the meaning of an artefact is located within them. That the things so to speak becomes part of our cultural heritage just because that is what they are. But looking more closely at these buildings will show that this is not the case.
We have in this work identified a new arena for research and for the institutions of cultural heritage to start to taking into consideration seriously. Here we want to emphasize the precursor of what we know today as the welfare state. When you today look at the welfare sector it at times seems like there were nothing but poorhouses and poorhouses, and then we all of a sudden got a welfare system. However, in reality there were a lot of people that were planning , initiating and building institutions to help the poorest in society. Their names, work and effort are almost forgotten by everyone today. It is the same with all the people that were living temporarily and for longer periods of time at these institutions. They seem to have no names, no stories to tell and nothing that would be worth remembering today or for the future. Many of them were women. We are talking about institutions such as birth establishments for single mothers, nurseries, asylums etc.
In the Bebyggelseregistet you have in total 10357 buildings that are protected by the law. You have a lot of subtitles, indicating why they have been protected. None of them are talking about the early welfare state.
Some of these buildings still exist today and so do some of the people working and those who stayed at these places. We have especially investigated the county of Västernorrland to emphasize this kind of built heritage and to suggest new methods for gathering knowledge about them.