Call for Abstracts

The Past for Sale?
The Economic Entanglements of Cultural Heritage

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Heritage and Society is pleased to announce an international conference to be held May 15-17, 2013 at the UMass Amherst Campus

The economic valuation of cultural heritage —whether protected and developed or illegally looted and exported—is among the most pressing practical research questions in the fields of both Cultural Heritage Studies and Community Development. What price in dollars or social value does heritage have in the 21st century? How is heritage marketed and sold in an era of rampant globalization and neoliberalism?

On the one hand, nations, regions, cities, and even small towns are investing significant public funds in the development and public presentation of archaeological sites, historic monuments, and historic districts in the hope of economic revitalization through tourism or increased property values. On the other, unprecedented diplomatic and legal measures are being taken to repatriate looted cultural property and put an end to the enormously profitable antiquities trade. What is happening on the ground? What types of heritage are being marketed, returned, or sold, and for what purposes? Who stands to gain from these processes?

The goal of this conference is to bring together a wide range of academics, economists, heritage professionals, development experts, government officials, and community leaders to examine the economic impacts of cultural heritage and its implications for contemporary society. Yet rather than seeing heritage-based tourism, urban redevelopment, and antiquities looting as distinct economic instances involving monetary profits or losses, we hope to encourage a trans-disciplinary discussion of the overlapping economic entanglements of cultural heritage and the broader social implications.

Plenary Speakers

  • GJ Ashworth Emeritus Professor of Heritage Management and Urban Tourism at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences of the University of Groningen, and Visiting Professor at University of Brighton (UK) Tourism and Research Group and NHTV Breda (Netherlands)
  • Françoise Benhamou Professor of Economics at Sciences Po-Paris, President of the Association for Cultural Economics International (ACEI), and Commissioner of the ARCEP
  • Neil Brodie Senior Research Fellow, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow
  • J.P. Singh Professor of Global Affairs and Cultural Studies at George Mason University

Major Themes and Suggested Topics

Themes to be explored in this conference will include:

  • Tourism: How has the need to market cultural heritage shaped communities, landscapes, and historic centers? Do common methods for drawing tourists (seeking UNESCO World Heritage status, creating destinations, building new museums, etc.) actually increase tourism? What kinds of social or economic costs does tourism give rise to, and who or what bears the burden of these costs?
  • Urban Revitalization: How does the promise of heritage tourism revenues lead to new ways of marketing or packaging the city? What types of (mega)projects does heritage tourism give rise to? Does it lead to ‘economic revitalization’? Who ultimately profits? And what impacts does it have on the fabric of the city?
  • Archaeological Looting, the Antiquities Market, and its Costs: What does looting tell us about the needs of the communities who live on and near archaeological sites? What is the larger socio-economic context of looting in the global antiquities market? Who benefits from the movement of archaeological material from field to lab to museum?

Specific topics under these themes may include:

  • The role of heritage in economic development
  • Negotiating the relationship between outsiders and stakeholders in economic development projects
  • Assessing the value of intangible cultural heritage
  • The complexities of repatriating museum artifacts
  • The impacts of tourism on historic sites and landscapes
  • Changes brought about through the revitalization of urban centers
  • The Disneyification of heritage sites: the balancing of profit, entertainment, and education
  • The unique challenges of heritage management in developing countries
  • The issues surrounding archaeological looting and/or the antiquities market

Abstracts will be accepted through January 15, 2013. Selected papers will be published in Heritage & Society, a peer-reviewed journal, whose editorship has been assumed by the UMass Amherst Center for Heritage and Society.

Submission of Abstracts

Abstracts can be submitted here. Abstracts must be submitted by January 15th 2013. Letters of acceptance will go out mid February.


  • Early Bird Registration - Professional (by March 30) $200
  • Early Bird Registration - Student (by March 30) $125
  • Regular Registration - Professional (before May 1) $250
  • Regular Registration - Student (before May 1) $150
  • Late Registration - Professional (on or after May 1) $285
  • Late Registration - Student (on or after May 1) $185

Registration includes conference attendance and program, coffee breaks, and opening and closing receptions for May 15-17. Optional banquet dinner and lunch available on site. Details for registration and accommodations will be available soon.

For questions or requests for additional information, please contact CHS Research Assistant Grace Cleary ( or visit the CHS website: