Forensic and Expert Social Anthropology and Cultural Heritage Preservation: Identifying Sacred Sites and Sacred Objects

Home Education Online Courses Forensic and expert courses Forensic and Expert Social Anthropology and Cultural Heritage Preservation: Identifying Sacred Sites and Sacred Objects
This course is designed to provide an introduction to FESA concepts and methods involved in the identification and preservation of sacred sites and objects, including natural and synthetic structures and objects that are revered as religiously significant by culturally distinct communities.

Course Tutor: Dr James Rose

8 x 1-hour classes

AUD$450 / GBP£245

Starting date: TBC

Dates are currently flexible. Please email education@therai.org.uk with any questions.

Register your interest here

This course is ideally suited to students of social anthropology, early- and mid-career practicing social anthropologists, especially those currently or planning to work in legal-administrative settings, as well as interested members of the public.

The course introduces social anthropological concepts, terms and definitions relevant to tangible cultural heritage preservation, focussing on legal and social scientific definitions of ‘sacredness’ as they apply to natural and synthetic structures and objects. The course will explore: The roles of sacred sites and objects as expressions of religious systems of ideas; Methods for identifying culturally significant sites, objects and relevant community knowledge holders in interview settings; The development of international conventions for the protection of tangible cultural heritage following World War 2, and; The interaction between national-level preservation regimes and international conventions.

If you are already an enrolled student, you can access our Moodle platform here:

Tutor biography

Dr James Rose is a forensic and expert social anthropologist specialising in culturally-based land claims, cultural heritage protection, data governance and geographic information systems.  His methodological focus includes network-based population dynamics and social and kinship network analysis. James holds two decades’ experience working with Australian state, territory and federal government agencies and departments, Commonwealth institutes, industry regulators, health service providers, universities, community-controlled organisations, and the private sector, and is a Senior Research Fellow with the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.

University of Melbourne: https://findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/profile/843112-james-rose 

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4983-1393

Private consulting website: https://www.relational.net.au

Watch a recording of James Rose discussing Forensic Expert Social Anthropology: 

Course objective & structure

Upon completion, students will have a working knowledge of forensic and expert social anthropological terms, definitions and concepts relevant to cultural heritage protection focussing on sacred sites and objects, elementary theoretical principles and methodological techniques Students will develop an understanding of the relationship between national-level legal-administrative regimes and international conventions related to cultural heritage preservation based on relevant case studies.

The course will be delivered synchronously in a virtual format over 8 x 1-hour classes. Each class will be comprised of a seminar oriented towards recommended readings and case studies, followed by class discussion.

Classes are designed to introduce students to contemporary best-practice in the subject area by orienting them towards case studies based on the tutor’s professional experience and leading relevant literature. The discussion component of each class is intended to allow students to familiarise themselves via a semi-structured Q&A format with the tutor.

Summary of seminar topics

Class 1: Terms and Definitions Class 2: Religious significance Class 3: Field Methods Part A, Identifying Sites, Objects and Knowledge-Holders Class 4: Field Methods Part B, Recording Cultural Significance Class 5: Field Methods Part C, Recording Physical Features Class 6: International Conventions Class 7: National Cultural Heritage protection & Repatriation Case Studies Class 8: Sites, Objects and Religion

Class 1: Terms and Definitions

This class introduces social anthropological concepts, terms and definitions associated with tangible cultural heritage preservation. The class focuses on consilient legal and social scientific definitions of ‘sacredness’, as they apply to natural and synthetic structures and objects.

Questions

  1. What is meant by ‘tangible cultural heritage’ as distinct from ‘intangible cultural heritage’?
  2. What is the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritage?
  3. What is the role of social anthropology in the preservation of tangible cultural heritage?
  4. What is the role of FESA practice in the preservation of tangible cultural heritage?

Class 2: Religious significance

This class explores the roles of sacred sites and objects as expressions of religious systems of ideas. We will focus on the social functions of religious worship, particularly the collective reification of abstract, collectively-held models of sociality, and prescriptive and proscriptive ideational modelling encoded in religious ritual and mythology.

Questions

  1. How does the concept of ‘sacredness’ distinguish certain types of tangible cultural heritage from tangible cultural heritage more generally?
  2. What are the links between systems of religious ideas and sacred sites and objects as a specific type of tangible cultural heritage?
  3. What are the features of the gradient distinguishing tangible cultural heritage, culturally significant sites, and sacred sites?

Class 3: Field Methods Part A, Identifying Sites, Objects and Knowledge-Holders

This class is the first in a three-part introduction to field methods in FESA practice associated with cultural heritage preservation. The first class describes methods for identifying culturally significant sites, objects and relevant community knowledge holders in interview settings. Students will learn how to identify community members with relevant and specific knowledge, and how to arrange interviews in a respectful, ethical and practical way.

Questions

  1. How can culturally significant sites and objects be distinguished from other forms of tangible cultural heritage in a community setting?
  2. How can the specialist holders of knowledge about culturally significant sites and objects be identified from among a more general community of culture-bearers?
  3. How should such knowledge-holders be approached in the course of FESA practice?

Class 4: Field Methods Part B, Recording Cultural Significance

The second class in this three-part series extends the introduction to interview methods relevant to recording the cultural significance of sacred sites and objects, by focusing on interview structure and strategy. In the previous class, we learnt how to identify knowledge holders and arrange interviews. In the current class, students will learn how to undertake recording both remotely and locally, utilising targeted interview methods suitable to a range of field conditions. We return to the definition of intangible cultural heritage introduced in Class 1, and demonstrate how to treat field recordings as a form of cultural property.

Questions

  1. After specialist holders of knowledge about culturally significant sites and objects have been identified, how can rapport be established in the course of an initial interview?
  2. What are key interview techniques for maximising the likelihood of future return interviews and introductions to other knowledge holders?
  3. What are some of the ways in which the relevance and integrity of information collected in from specialist knowledge holders be assessed?
  4. How should the content and medium of interview records be treated following interview? 

Class 5: Field Methods Part C, Recording Physical Features

The third class in this three-part series on field methods describes introductory methods for text-based, photographic, video and geospatial baseline recording. This class focuses on the recording of on site location, extent, characteristics and condition.

Questions

  1. What are the key features of any given culturally significant site that should be recorded in the course of related FESA investigation?
  2. What is the basic minimum information that should be recorded in order for these features to be sufficiently documented?
  3. What kind of hardware is necessary for such recording?
  4. What kind of software is necessary for such recordings to be stored?
  5.  

Class 6: International Conventions

This class outlines the development of international conventions for the protection of tangible cultural heritage following World War 2, changing historical contexts in which this development has occurred, changing definitions of cultural heritage itself, and changing approaches to its preservation.

Questions

  1.  

    1. What is the developmental history of international conventions for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage?
    2. What are some key features of the conventions in this developmental history?
    3. What are some of the key critiques of these conventions?
    4. From a general perspective, how is the role of social anthropology be characterised in relation to these conventions?
    5. From a more specific perspective, and drawing on Classes 4 and 5, how might the role of FESA be characterised in relation to these conventions?

Class 7: National Cultural Heritage protection & Repatriation Case Studies

This class explores the interaction between national-level tangible cultural heritage preservation regimes, international conventions, and social anthropology at a general level. We focus on mechanisms for the repatriation of sacred objects that have been removed from their communities of origin. Building on concepts covered in Classes 3 and 4, students will be introduced to contemporary best-practice methods for handling field records as an auxiliary form of cultural property attached to extant sites and objects.

Questions

  1. How do variations in national-level tangible cultural heritage preservation regimes reflect the distinct statutory histories of their host nations?
  2. How do international and national cultural heritage protection regimes interact with repatriation processes?
  3. How can FESA practice pre-emptively support repatriation processes?

Class 8: Sites, Objects and Religion

This class concludes the course by recapitulating concepts introduced in Class 1. We reconsider the social roles, functions and relations in which sacred sites and objects form essential factors, within the broader domain of social activity known as religion. Further readings are introduced, focussing more specifically on the roles of sacred sites and objects within systems of religion, including their political and economic functions, and the social relations that are mediated by them.

Questions

  1. What are the functions of sacred sites and objects within religious domains of sociality?
  2. How do sacred sites and objects mediate political and economic relations? 
  3. What role do religious domains of sociality play in the overall cultural cohesion of a society?