Heritage, Culture and Politics in the Postcolony

Daniel Herwitz. Columbia Univ., $35 (224p) ISBN 978-0231-16018-6
Herwitz, director of the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities, excavates the concept of "heritage" in postcolonial societies, specifically India, South Africa, and America in this convincing and provocative study. Herwitz (The Star as Icon: Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumption) theorizes that postcolonies practice "live action heritage," constantly reimagining and rebranding their own heritages toward a variety of political and aesthetic ends. Through the lens of his revelatory introductory essay, Herwitz explores five divergent examples of these "heritage games:" in an India newly freed from British control, a group of artists struggle to invent modern Indian art, combining their vibrant culture with European modernism. In post-apartheid South Africa, exciting and problematic "national narratives" emerge in the wake of the Afrikaner cultural monolith perpetuated by apartheid. In the chapter on the United States, Herwitz’s work takes on a more topical, left-leaning tone, exploring the media as the site for "restaging heritage in American politics," particularly in the cases of Obama and Palin in 2008. Navigating Herwitz’s syntactical contortions and glut of information and references makes for athletic reading, but yields rewarding results for disciplined readers and students of the subject. Photos & illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/06/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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Open Ebook - 233 pages - 978-0-231-53072-9
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