Anno accademico 2021/2022 - 1° anno - Curriculum Tema+ European Territories: Heritage and development
Docente: Mara Benadusi
Crediti: 6
SSD: M-DEA/01 - Discipline demoetnoantropologiche
Organizzazione didattica: 150 ore d'impegno totale, 114 di studio individuale, 36 di lezione frontale

Modalità di svolgimento dell'insegnamento

This is an interactive teaching style course. Classes will consist of seminar meetings, film screenings, individual and collective discussion papers on the assigned reading material, special guests' lectures, and a final written assignment. All students will be expected to actively engage with readings, lectures, and class discussion. Students’ general attendance, consistence, punctuality, and personal contribution to daily debates significantly shape their overall assessment and final grade.

Prerequisiti richiesti

If students do not have a previous basic knowledge of anthropology, a general reading of the following book is required before the beginning of the course: Matthew Engelke, "Think Like an Anthropologist", Pelican Books, 2017.

Frequenza lezioni

Attendance is mandatory. A maximum of 3 classes can be missed, provided that student emailed me in advance.

Contenuti del corso

In today policies of world heritage construction environmental heritage is considered a universal good to be protected for its social, aesthetic, economic, historic and natural values. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, for instance, the designation of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) requires an area to evidence a combination of the following "natural beauty criterion": landscape quality, scenic quality, relative wildness, relative tranquillity, natural heritage features and cultural heritage. In a generalized effort to see natural resources as a key asset for the redefinition of a "global hierarchy of values", environments and landscapes are proceduralized as tangible and intangible goods, classified and valued as enclosed natural reserves, aboriginal sacred places and objects, and indigenous cosmologies, traditions and memories inherited from the past. However, the link between heritage and environment is anything but obvious and uncritical. Entanglements between heritage and the environment indeed are affected by the different modes of relations that individuals and collectives establish with the world they live in, and with their more-than-human surrounding. And above all, they are the always unstable result of complex political dynamics of appropriation, symbolic and material reconfiguration, and economic valorization that operate on both a local and global scale.


Focusing on key anthropological concepts, theories and methods, this course will offer a deep and critical understanding of initiatives to protect and improve what is often presented to the public as "our common natural world". We will explore the historical, cultural and political assumptions behind the establishment or candidature of ecological zones as world heritage goods in the Mediterranean through the analysis of various case studies: urban, indigenous, and post-industrial areas, wildlife management and wilderness zones, archaeological sites, coastal and marine environments, community-conserved areas, and land-trust preserves. Particular attention will be paid to problems and controversies that stem out of environmental heritage conservation since the adoption of the World Heritage Convention. The course is also designed to take into consideration global environmental trends and heritage consumption strategies, and the ways they are negotiated and manipulated by different interest groups, such as environmental organizations, development agencies, policymakers, local representatives, and those who wielded power in processes of heritage construction.


The course aims to provide students with a critical anthropological understanding of "environmental heritage conservation" in the Mediterranean. In particular, seminars and class activities will give students the chance to:

  • Become familiar with key concepts and theories related to heritage construction in anthropology;
  • Acquire a more anthropologically nuanced and theoretically informed understanding of the changing conditions of heritage regulation and the political struggles in which new “heritagized” claims are now imbricated, exspecially when uneven efforts of heritagization of natural assets are at stake, in diverse historical and socio-cultural settings;
  • Learn how to proactively contribute to contemporary debates over sustainability, natural conservation and heritage politics at local and global scale;
  • Acquire informed ethnographic knowledge about the modalities and moral implications of environmental conservation in heritagization processes, with a specific focus on the Mediterranean;
  • Think back to common representations of the environment as a "universal human value" that need to be protected, just like this is often misleadingly described in the press, popular culture and in heritage policy documents;
  • Reflect on the challenges and risks of an anthropological engagement in public discourse and transformative social practices when heritage politics meets urgent ecological challenges.

Testi di riferimento

Rodney Harrison, 2013, Heritage. A critical Approach, Routledge

[Other reading materials (short papers and book chapters) will be available on Studium]

Verifica dell'apprendimento

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento

Course evaluation will be based on students’ overall participation, group facilitation, 2 discussion papers (2 pages - double spaced), and a final exam with a written report. During the semester students will be also expected to follow the progress of one specific heritagization process in the Mediterranean, using available news and information outlets about "natural sites" represented in the the World Heritage List (https://www.iucn.org/theme/world-heritage/natural-sites). Assessment will be based on the following parameters:


Overall participation (20%)
The classes run seminar-style and students are expected to actively participate and demonstrate understanding of the readings. All students must complete the readings on time, and be prepared to discuss and/or present them in class, highlight passages for analysis, and raise questions for debate. Apart from the readings, in class we will discuss newspaper articles, blogs, films and videos. I will upload such material on Studium and students are expected to read/view it and be prepared to participate in a debate/discussion in class.


Group facilitation (20%)
At the beginning of the course, students will sign up to function as facilitators for the discussion in one seminar. They will be called on in the respective class to give a 15΄ presentation. The other students will be invited to critique and add to the presentation. Depending on the size of the class, these may be group presentations. Presentations must address the following issues: What is the main argument and goal of the seminar? What evidence is provided for the argument? Do you consider this argument solid? Why or why not? What is the analytical prism through which the objective/research question of the seminar is addressed (key concepts, theories)? Try to end your presentation with a couple of open-ended questions for the class.


Discussion papers (20%)
Each student is expected to present a discussion paper to the class twice during the semester. Reader responses consist of 2 pages where students will describe their reaction to one or more of the readings/films presented in the course. Assessment will be based on the students’ ability to demonstrate critical thinking and elaborate on the course's materials.


Final Exam (40%)
The final exam is comprised of two tasks: a written report and an oral examination session. The report is a 10 pages text (double spaced), that will follow a structure provided by the teacher at the end of the course. The questions will pertain to the readings, film screenings and class lectures covered in the semester. Students will receive the grade for their written assignments, and feedback approximately 15 days after the deadlines. Individual oral examination sessions will be then arranged. The final exam will be judged on the basis of pertinence and substantive quality, domination of the assigned material, critical insight and logical coherence.


N.B. Students are encouraged to contact me for receiving help or discussing their ideas during all the semester. They can also consult me on possible additional bibliographical references or proposals for their final dissertation.