Chapter 2 - Abstract and author bios

2. Heritage vs. Property: Contrasting Regimes and Rationalities in the Patrimonial Field

Valdimar Tr. Hafstein and Martin Skrydstrup

The chapter examines the relationship between cultural property and cultural heritage with reference to case studies from Greece, Morocco, USA and Canada, Denmark, Iceland and Greenland. Moving from a legal to an historical definition, we argue that the two represent fundamentally different approaches to subject formation, produce distinct bodies of expertise, and belong to different rationalities of government in the patrimonial field. Protecting cultural property, we propose, is a technology of sovereignty and forms part of the order of the modern liberal state. Conversely, we contend that safeguarding cultural heritage is a technology of reformation, cultivating responsible subjects and entangling them in networks of expertise and management.

Valdimar Tr. Hafstein is Professor in the Department of Ethnology, Folklore, and Museum Studies at the University of Iceland, and current president of SIEF (International Society for Ethnology and Folklore). He holds an MA and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Valdimar chaired the Icelandic National Commission for UNESCO from 2011 to 2012. He has published on topics ranging from heritage theory to copyright, from UNESCO to medieval legends, and from traditional wrestling to CCTV surveillance. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, and Danish.


Martin Skrydstrup, formerly a postdoc at the Department of Food and Resource Economics, Section for Global Development, University of Copenhagen, is affiliated with the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen. He holds an MA in cultural anthropology from the University of Copenhagen and a PhD also in cultural anthropology from Columbia University based on his dissertation entitled ‘Once Ours: The Making and Unmaking of Claims to Cultural Property’ (2010). He has served on the Board of Directors for ICME and as Adviser to ICOM’s Ethics Committee. His research straddles the disciplines of anthropology, science studies and history and is concerned most generally with relationships between expertise, governance and the constitution of natural and cultural resources.