The heritage ‘NGO’: a case study on the role of grass roots heritage societies in Iran and their perception of cultural heritage
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This paper examines the activities of a group of heritage enthusiasts in Iran. Grass roots heritage activism is a relatively recent phenomenon that appeared in Iran since the late 1990s. They are increasingly operating collectively as cultural or heritage NGOs. They have diverse socio-economic origins and political views. However, as this paper argues, they share a common ground in their activities; one that maintains an ambivalent and critical relationship with the state and official definitions of heritage and identity. Referring to interview and other data collected during fieldwork in Iran, this paper traces and analyses the contours of that common ground and argues that there is a nascent heritage movement in the country. The impact and contribution of these emerging and self-reflective heritage movements to Iranian identity, which is reflected in their embracing of diversity and the notion of historical continuity, reveal the dynamism and complexity of the cultural and political landscape of contemporary Iranian society. They also reveal the importance of generating further scholarship in the field of Iranian cultural heritage. In conceptualising the characteristics of a nascent heritage movement in Iran, the paper makes a new contribution to the approach of existing scholarship in the broader field of heritage studies.
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