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The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa

ISBN: 978-0-470-67071-2
272 pages
October 2011, ©2011, Wiley-Blackwell
The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa (0470670711) cover image


The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa is unique in revealing the conflicts inherent in preserving both natural and cultural heritage, by examining the archaeological, ethnographic and economic evidence of a nation's attempts to master its past and its future.
  • Provides a classic example of how nations attempt to overcome a negative heritage through past mastering of their histories
  • Evaluates the continuing dominance of nature and conservation over concerns for cultural heritage
  • Employs ethnographic and archaeological methodologies to reveal how the past is processed into a new national heritage
  • Identifies heritage as therapy, exemplified in the strategy for repairing legacies of racial and ethnic difference in post-apartheid South Africa
  • Highlights the role of archaeological heritage sites, national parks and protected areas in economic development and social empowerment
  • Explores how nature trumps culture and the global implications of the new configurations of heritage
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii

Abbreviations xiii

Introduction: Past Mastering in the New South Africa 1

1 Naturalizing Cultural Heritage 13

2 Making Heritage Pay in the Rainbow Nation 37

3 It's Mine, It's Yours: Excavating Park Histories 63

4 Why Biodiversity Trumps Culture 98

5 Archaeologies of Failure 125

6 Thulamela: The Donors, the Archaeologist, his Gold, and the Flood 149

7 Kruger is a Gold Rock: Parastatal and Private Visions of the Good 176

Conclusions: Future Perfect 203

References 217

Index 248

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Author Information

Lynn Meskell is Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University (USA) and Honorary Professor at the Rock Art Research Institute in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). She is the founder and editor of the Journal of Social Archaeology, and the author and editor of several books, including A Companion to Social Archaeology (Wiley-Blackwell), Archaeologies of Materiality (Wiley-Blackwell), and Cosmopolitan Archaeologies.
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“Lynn Meskell’s book is carefully researched and engagingly written, and is essential reading for anyone interested in archaeology and heritage in South Africa.”  (South African Archaeological Bulletin, 1 October 2013)

“With a rhetoric of diversity, sustainability, and conservation, neoliberal forces typecast entire societies as both money-spinning tourist fodder and evil destroyers of pristine nature.  Meskell incisively exposes the resulting structural violence of conservation in South Africa, showing how managerial simplification of the country’s painful historical experience and complex archaeological record perpetuates past oppressions and exclusions.  The Nature of Heritage gives timely shape and heft to concern for the future of the past – and the future of humanity.”
- Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University

“In one sense this is a book about the loss of innocence – of how the dream of cultural heritage in a new South Africa has been swamped by narrower interests and the tourism market.  But it also a reassertion of the value and significance of archaeological ethnography, of showing how ‘past-mastering’ is invariably the outcome of compromises, and imbued with politics.”
- Martin Hall, University of Salford

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