Where is Chichen Itza? OSEA The Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology offers Field Study Abroad programs in Yucatan, Mexico, with Maya cultural immersion. Learn to conduct your own independent field research in tourism studies, Maya health and healing, Ethnography of Archaeology / Heritage Ethnography Field School / Summer Study Abroad / Heritage Development Studies

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What is Heritage?

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What is Heritage?
The Diversity of Heritage
Over the last 20 years, heritage has become an increasingly important concept in a variety of different traditional and interdisciplinary fields of study. It is an emergent focus of resarch for scholars and practitioners in fields ranging from tourism and environmental studies to anthropology, art, architecture, and international law. For some anthropologists heritage has displaced “culture” as an object of study. For tourism developers, heritage has become a significant new market segment of the industry. For environmentalists, heritage is a way to define the value of what must be preserved and exploited in the ecology. For indigenous communities, heritage is central to very definition of what it means to be part of a culture and way of life.

It has a bewildering range in meanings and uses, in part because it can be applied to just about anything that has value for a community or group as part of its identity, sense of belonging, and things that properly belong to the group. There are any number of ways to identity heritage. Heritage is not just “the past” but is very much alive in the present. Heritage can refer to aspects of the environment, ecology, cultural practices and customs, language, material culture, the past, the present, biological-genetic material, health and the body, educational achievements and on and on. Heritage is increasingly defined by law, the moral laws of cultures and the formal laws of nations and international organizations such as UNESCO. Thus, we can talk about World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage and investigate the laws that govern, protect, conserve, and regulate heritage. Heritage has symbolic, cultural, historical, religious, economic, political, psychological and personal value and meanings.

We are looking for highly motivated, creative, and flexible persons with a variety of skills, experience, training, and interest.


The OSEA Approach to Heritage
Given this diversity of “things” that heritage is, our view is that heritage is best understood as a way of interacting with the world. It is less some "thing" than the way people interact with, conceptualize, value, fight over, define, try to regulate, own, use, protect, and claim just about anything under the name of "heritage.">

At OSEA, we therefore seek to develop new ways of theorizing heritage in a more comprehensive manner. Our goal is to develop practical ways of studying and engaging heritage issues through a new theoretical framework.


Heritage Development and the Ethnography of Archaeology
The Heritage Ethnography Field School is designed as an exploration of heritage development. What kinds of heritage are identified by what groups for what reasons and how is this heritage protected, promoted, controlled, regulated? The focus of the Field School is on heritage development in contexts of tourism. But this issue itself is quite large in scope: within it, students can explore ecological issues, traditional medical-knowledge and healing as intangible heritage, tourist art and handicrafts as material heritage, the significance of archaeological heritage for identity and social movements, the politics of tourism, migration




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