Jan 24, 2021

In-Herit: The Role of Heritage in Ontological Security during Migration and Displacement


The In-Herit Project explores the emerging role of heritage in improving ontological security and mitigating the trauma of displacement in the context of a global network of heritage researchers. We explore how cultural heritage contributes to a sense of collective identity and place-making, improving ontological security and how it can play an important role in mitigating the traumatic impacts of displacement and rapid environmental change.

Around the globe, disruption of natural and man-made environments will increase as the effects of climate change increases the risk of catastrophic events, and the instances of war and civil unrest rise as competition for resources becomes more critical.

In 2015 there were 65.4 million displaced persons in the world, up from 19.4 million in 2005 (UNHCR 2015) and the number is climbing. But how people respond to disasters, war-related trauma and displacement, the rate at which they recover and the steps they take to mitigate future disasters is substantially influenced by both their culture and their cultural heritage (Rohit 2010; Shrotryia 2013).

Heritage and its role in ontological security impacts a wide range of activities and decisions people make both individually and collectively. We know there is a positive link between place identity and environmentally responsible behaviours such as gardening, leading to participatory community actions and community resilience (Harris et al. 2014; Jean 2015; Sampson and Gifford 2010.)

What is currently missing in the climate change resilience and refugee debates is a discussion of the impacts of cultural heritage on rebuilding and resettlement efforts, and an understanding of how human societies will sustain and reinvent themselves in the face of great environmental, social and political change. Disaster management and resettlement efforts must incorporate the spectrum of attitudes, values, knowledge, and social and legal practices that are embodied in cultural heritage.

This includes three primary aspects of cultural heritage:

  1. An understanding of place and place-making in the context of a cultural landscape
  2. The intangible heritage of attitudes, values, and practices that govern a culture
  3. The history of cross-cultural relations in a region, particularly between dominant and minority communities.

Cultural landscapes and their connected intangible heritage of attitudes, values, and traditions affect place-making, place identification, and social adaptation, and are critical to the security and identification people seek under the trauma of displacement.The In-Herit Project explores these issues in the context of a global network of heritage researchers.

We explore a variety of themes within this research, including how heritage contributes to a sense of ontological security; collective identity and place-making; how place-making plays an important role in mitigating the traumatic impacts of displacement and rapid environmental change; how traditional agricultural practices can contribute to both food security and ontological security; and other critical issues of culture and heritage.

Who's involved

Anthony Andrew Adjei, University of Ghana
Whitney Battle-Baptiste , UMass Amherst
Andrew Brown, University of York
Kathleen Brown-Perez, UMass Amherst
Elena Carbone, UMass Amherst
Roger Chung, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Peter Day, University of Sheffield
Graeme Earl, University of Southampton
Joanne Fong, University of Southampton
Eleonora Gandolfi, University of Southampton
Jesse Grayman, University of Auckland
Abigail Harrison Moore, University of Leeds
Susan Jim, University of Bristol
Beverly Lemire, University of Alberta
Ying Li, UMass Amherst
Alicia Marchant, University of Western Australia
Clare Mouat, University of Western Australia
Alex Neill, University of Southampton
Angela Niazmand, UMass Amherst
Sean O’Donnell, UMass Amherst
Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, University of Ghana
Mi Yung Park, University of Auckland
Marija Petrovic, University of Alberta
Hannah Quaintance, SUNY Buffalo
Alin Rus, UMass Amherst
Tore Saetersdal, University of Bergen
John Schofield, University of York
Ann Singleton, University of Bristol
BenjaminSmith, University of Western Australia
Oludele Solaja, Olabisi Onabanjo University
Evan Taylor, UMass Amherst
Marilyn Truscott, University of Canberra
Lissette V’çzquez, UMass Amherst
Wilna Venter, University of Cape Town
Jessica Williams, UMass Amherst
Ping-Sheng Wu, National Cheng Kung University