Heritage, Human Rights, and Social Justice

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What is the distinction between human rights and social justice frameworks? I argue that in heritage contexts, distinctions do matter. Despite its potential in protecting cultural heritage and mediating conflict, human rights regimes have been
  Heritage, Human Rights, and SocialJustice Melissa F. Baird Michigan Technological University, Houghton, USA Abstract  What is the distinction between human rights and social justice frameworks?In heritage contexts, distinctions do matter. Despite its potential in protectingcultural heritage and mediating conflict, human rights regimes have beenoverburdened in taking on heritage issues. In certain contexts, an inclusionof a social justice agenda provides advocacy and voice to communitieswhose needs have been marginalized. A social justice approach is positionedto take on issues of inequalities, injustices, or violations of heritage andcultural rights, and provide avenues for  “ communities of connection ” (indigenous, subaltern, descendant, and local communities) to challengehow their heritage is represented. Resumen ¿Cuál es la distinción entre los derechos humanos y las infraestructuras dejusticia social? En los contextos relacionados con el patrimonio, las distin-ciones sí son importantes. A pesar de su capacidad para proteger el patrimo-nio cultural y mediar en casos de conflicto, los regímenes de derechoshumanos se han visto sobrecargados a la hora de hacerse cargo de cuestionesrelativas al patrimonio cultural. En ciertoscontextos, la inclusión de un plan dejusticia social ofrece apoyo y la posibilidad de expresar su opinión a comuni-dades cuyas necesidades se han marginado. Se presenta un enfoque de justi-cia social para resolver cuestiones relacionadas con desigualdades, injusticiaso violaciones de los derechos patrimoniales y culturales así como para ofrecervías para que las  “ comunidades de conexión ”  (comunidades indígenas,subalternas, descendientes y locales) cuestionen cómo se representa supatrimonio. Résumé Quelle est la distinction entre les droits de l ’ homme et les structures de justicesociale ? Dans les contextes de la protection du patrimoine, les distinctions heritage & society , Vol. 7 No. 2, November, 2014, 139 – 155 © W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2014  DOI 10.1179/2159032X14Z.00000000031  ont leur importance. Malgré leur potentiel dans la protection du patrimoineculturel et la médiation des conflits, les régimes de protection des droits del ’ homme sont surchargés par la prise en compte des questions de patrimoine.Dans certains contextes, l ’ inclusion d ’ un programme de justice sociale fournitun plaidoyer et une voix aux communautés dont les besoins ont été margin-alisés. Une approche sociale de la justice aborde forcément des questionsd ’ inégalités, d ’ injustices ou de violations du patrimoine et des droits culturels,et offre des opportunités aux «communautés de préservation» (commu-nautés indigènes, subalternes, ancestrales, et locales) pour contester lafaçon dont leur patrimoine est représenté. keywords:  critical heritage, social justice, human rights, upstreaming, expertknowledge Do distinctions matter? Archaeologists, legal scholars, anthropologists, and other researchers increasinglyengage with questions of human rights in their work (Anaya 2011; Blake 2011; Ekern et al. 2012; Goodale 2006a, 2006b; Hodder 2010; Logan 2012; Meskell 2010; Silverman and Ruggles 2007). In heritage contexts, there is a clear concern forhow humanrightsframeworks can bebroughttobear on addressing inequalitiesand injustices (Blake 2011; Luke and Kersel 2013; Vrdoljak 2006). Although scho- lars are (re)visioning the field of practice with an eye toward a greater inclusion of human rights, some challenges remain. As Silverman and Ruggles (2007:3) argue,heritage is generally viewed as positive and shared, but also clearly the site of con-flict. Cultural heritage sites are increasingly targeted and destroyed during timesof war, as evidenced in the damage of Jobar Synagogue in Damascus, Syria, theSidi Yahia Mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, and cultural sites throughout the historiccity of Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina. In the former Yugoslavia, for example, cul-tural heritage became a  “ weapon of war ”  in the intense inter-ethnic conflicts, andinternational agencies looked to human rights mechanisms to mediate and protectculture and material remains (Blake 2000:76). Yet, the imposition of humanrights frameworks or laws in heritage contexts can also introduce a suite of chal-lenges (see Blake 2011; Meskell 2009). This is because human rights discourse has been increasingly called upon to negotiate cultural claims, from addressing avariety of ethical and moral claims, to promoting cultural landscapes, or protectingrights to political recognition, intellectual property, and so on.Clearly human rights instruments are critical to the protection of people, culture,and lands on the frontline of conflicts. Indigenous peoples have drawn on andexpanded on human rights initiatives to successfully organize for lands, culturalpreservation, and self-determination (Havemann 1999; Lilley 2000; Messer 1993, 1995; Niezen 2003). In Chiapas, Mexico, anthropologist Shannon Speed (2008), 140  MELISSA F. BAIRD  for example, helped indigenous peoples organize and claim cultural rights to protecttheirlandsandresources.Withoutlesseningtheimportanceofthesecontexts,Iwantto think instead about the ways in which human rights instruments may be overbur-dened.Insomecontexts,scholars(andothers)areinvokingrightsdiscourseasawaytoaddressinequalities,injustices, orviolationsofheritageorculturalrightsthattheyencounter in their work. But do these instruments provide a voice for all  “ commu-nities of connection ”  (indigenous, subaltern, descendant, and local communities) tomediate how their heritage is represented? 1 In some cases they do not. A socialjustice approach can be positioned in ways that take seriously the people on themargins and, alone or in concert with human rights frameworks, could be consider-ably more far-reaching in calling attention to how inequalities and oppression arereproduced. 2 Distinctions matter, and the goal of this paper is to think through what one meansby “ social justice ” asagesture towardhow itcanbeemployed torelieve anoverbur-dening of human rights claims. In some contexts, such as in stakeholders ’  claims toidentity, a shift from rights discourse to social justice allows for interventions thatrecognize and make visible people on the margins. To do this work, interestedparties must make clear the practical and philosophical differences betweenhuman rights and social justice conceptions of heritage. Human rights and/or social justice Scholars whose fields of study range from political science, to economics and politi-cal philosophy have developed conceptions of justice to explain an individual ’ srelationship to society, theories of justice and fairness (Forst 2010; Rawls 1971), concepts of distributive justice and markets (Sen 1999), and the intersectionsbetween democracy and justice (Benhabib 1996). This paper does not mean tomap out a genealogy of social justice. Instead, it is argued that ideas of socialjustice are varied and draw from largely different perspective thrusts. Socialjustice is central to the work done in medical anthropology (see e.g., Biehl 2013;Bourgois 1996; Farmer 2004; Zheng and Plambech 2010), environmental justice (Bullard 1994; Sandler and Pezzullo 2007), education (Cammarota 2011), and heri- tage (González-Tennant 2013; Hodder 2010; Langfield et al. 2009; Lilley 2009; Niezen 2003; Silberman 2012). Anthropologist Joäo Biehl (2013), for example studies the  “ zones of social abandonment ”  in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to show howtheilland “ unwanted ” aresociallymarginalizedand excludedfrom society.Hiseth-nographic analyses revealed the state-supported structural violence that led to the “ bureaucratically and relationally sanctioned ”  abandonment (Biehl 2013:20).Collectively, these scholars address dilemmas of inequality and rights that theyencounter in their work.A social justice framework occurs at the nexus of practice and discourse andengages academics, governments, and non-traditional groups, ethnic dispossessed,and working class communities. Its commitment is to issues of social equality, and HERITAGE, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE  141  to expose systems of domination. A social justice approach begins in a local contextand works out to include insights into historical and political processes and for-mations, and how these inform, protect, or promote rights. In heritage contextsthe questions one may ask include: How is heritage mobilized in knowledgeclaims and identity creation? Are specific discourses or practices privileged in thename of safeguarding heritage? Are certain voices included and/or silenced, anddo heritage policies mask historical experiences of colonialism that are embeddedin and structure heritagepractices? In working in World Heritage cultural landscapecontexts,thisauthorfoundthatindigenousgroupshadtopresenttheirclaimswithinsystems that are largely incompatible with their custodial responsibilities, knowl-edge practices, and/or customary laws (Baird 2013a).Human rights exemplify a range of practices, discourses, and legal perspectives(Cowan 2008; Cowan and Wilson 2001; Merry 2009), and as Marie-Bénédicte Dembour outlined (2010), encompass widely different interpretations of rightsconcepts, approaches, and principles (Goodale 2009; Merry 2009; Nash 2001; Riles 2006). For anthropologists, interpretations of human rights discourse and itsapplications have been part of an ongoing dialogue and debate over universalistclaims of rights and cultural or local claims (see Coombe 1998; Engle 2001; Goodale 2009; Merry 2009; Messer 1993; Riles 2006; Wilson 1996), as well as cul- turalheritagelaw(seeVrdoljak2006).Scholarshavetracedtheroleofrightsandtheimpacts of violence (Campbell 1998; Fabricant 2012; Taylor 1997, 2003), the role of truth and reconciliation commissions and war crime tribunals (Eltringham 2013;Niezen 2013; Stuesse 2013), and the role of identity, memory, and nationalism in oppressing rights (Taylor 1997). Diana Taylor (1997), for example, called attention tothehistoriesnotwritteninthefalloutofstateterrorisminArgentina ’ s “ dirtywar. ” Her analysis of the role of performance showed how the authoritarian Argentiniangovernment appropriated the message of the opposition and human rights organiz-ations working with relatives and victims of   “ the disappeared. ”  In the process, thegovernment inserted itself as an actor and stakeholder engaged in rights discourseand practices, depoliticized violence, and claimed political space.Beyond any doubt promoting human rights principles and agendas is essential.Human rights provide a  “ category that makes violence socially legible ”  (Tate2007:4). In the case of forced displacement, violent conflict, or the destruction of important culturaland religious sites in acts ofwar,human rights advocacy isacriti-cal and needed intervention in mediating the rights of vulnerable people (Dembour2010). In Ethiopia, for example, ethnic minorities called upon human rights frame-works to fight against the construction of Africa ’ s largest dam. In that case, invest-ment and energy needs superseded these communities ’  rights and concerns andtranslated into significant social, cultural, and environmental losses (Abbink2012). Thus, human rights protections and adherence to the rights outlined in the1946 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other conventions anddeclarations, bring to the fore discriminatory practices that can then be debatedand mediated within the global consciousness. 142  MELISSA F. BAIRD  But there are also theoretical and practical challenges. As Helen Stacy (2009:6)argued, despite an  “ impressive structure of human rights agencies  …  [and] the cre-ation of the international human rights system, the world remains full of humanrights atrocities. ”  Stacy (2009) and others (Dembour 2010; Merry 2009; Nash 2001) are pointing to government-supported actions against civilians, as well asin the neglect of certain ethnic groups within a society. As Tate (2007:5) showedin the contexts of human rights activism in Columbia, it was not only the margin-alized and impacted groups or nongovernmental activists who drew on humanrights for support, but also military officers who tried to justify their militarystrategies.At the same time, in some cases what are being invoked as human rights issues areclearlynot.InmyethnographicstudyofWorldHeritageexperts,itbecameclearthatexperts frequently invoked universalist and normative ideas of rights in their con-ceptions of indigenous cultural landscapes (Baird 2009; see also Povinelli 2002). Although international organizations, such as UNESCO and International Unionfor Conservation of Nature (IUCN), recognize and adhere to the International Billof Human Rights and other rights instruments, such discourse draws directionfrom the global community and may not account for local or specific concerns.Rights discourse shares similar critiques and burdens of UNESCO ’ s  “ universalizingproject of World Heritage, ”  in which ideas of heritage are assumed to be globallyshared (de Cesari 2010; see also Meskell 2010). 3 I must emphasize that I am not proposing to displace important research onhuman rights, as human rights advocacy is critical to the work that anthropologistsand heritage scholars do. Yet, in some contexts, adopting a human rights approachmay be overreaching. How can we best approach rights in ways that support thecommunities in which one works while also protecting cultural or environmentalheritage? In such cases, a social justice agenda could unburden the reliance onrights discourse and provide advocacy and agency to communities whose needshave been marginalized. Heritage rights and wrongs To illustrate the complexities of negotiating heritage and rights, I begin with anexample from my earlier fieldwork experience in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia.In2006,Iwaspartofaresearchteamthatsurveyedthehigh-mountainvalleysoftheBayan Ölgiy aimag (province), a region which includes an impressive collection of standing stones and stone figures, stone altars, burial and ritual mounds, and petro-glyphs that attest to the symbolic and cultural practices that span at least 12,000years (Bourgeois et al. 2006; Jacobson 1993). The population is made up primarily of Kazakh nomadic pastoralists whose connection to the region began in themid-1800s (Dubuisson and Genina 2011:478). These communities seasonallymigrate throughout the high-mountain valleys and have strong attachment to thisregion, despite being stigmatized as outsiders by native Mongolians (Dubuisson HERITAGE, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE  143
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