Black History Month: Cultural heritage is a tool for social justice

22 Oct 2020

Dr Niall Finneran, Programme Leader for the University of Winchester MA Cultural Heritage and Resource Management degree programme and an expert in historical archaeology and cultural heritage management, explains the work that he is undertaking for Black History Month and more widely in terms of thinking through decolonisation.

The University of Winchester's Masters programme in Cultural Heritage and Resource Management (CHaRM) has over the last ten years developed a strong ethos in values-driven and sustainable heritage and sees very much the value of heritage as a tool for social justice.

Over the last year, we have been explicitly developing new directions in teaching and research, focusing on an agenda for decolonisation and also promoting a wider awareness of BAME heritage. The programme is a UK leader in this regard.

With 25 years' experience of research and teaching in African archaeology, art, anthropology and heritage, for the last ten years I have been working in the Caribbean on approaches to the difficult heritage of slavery and, more recently, among BAME communities in the East End of London. My publication record reflects this commitment, as well as a long-standing and first-hand approach to decolonising methodologies.

Students on the CHaRM programme have worked closely with me on a number of projects relating to the UK's BAME heritage: CHaRM is one of the few courses in the UK that offers teaching in de-colonisation of theory and method, relating particularly to history, heritage and archaeology.

Working with Dr Christina Welch, we use our first-hand research on indigenous Caribbean communities, or sensing place project in the East End of London, and my extensive African expertise as the basis for class-based practical sessions.

We are marking Black History Month with a series of student-led projects on aspects of African and Afro-Caribbean heritage that will be developed as a series of educational resources for schools, as part of a project I am involved with to help raise awareness of BAME heritage in Devon through a pilot project with Teignbridge District Council.

In addition, we maintain collaborative links with our former CHaRM student and English Heritage advisor Laura Hampden and her ground-breaking Museum Detox project which seeks to decolonise museum practice in the UK.

We are proud that the CHaRM programme and its students have done much to carve a wider national and International recognition as a leader in sustainable and values-driven heritage teaching, research and practice.

Photograph on landing page shows MA Cultural Heritage and Resource Management students digging on a field trip in Barbados. 

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