The reasons why “Comparative Heritage” is important are not immediately obvious, and for obvious reasons, too. First, nearly everyone feels comfortable talking about the positive and nice sides about their history. And again, that happens too often, for obvious reasons. Conversations around “heritage” often always assume a monotonous definition about some distant past, woven around the fine memories of the heritage inheritors. It feels like talking some nice things about an ancestor. Or, in another way, with “heritage,” one might assume that by that is meant our collective memory of the past, and how those moments past had shaped (us into) the present. These are ways, but not the only ones, of looking at heritage.
Fundamentally, Comparative Heritage (CHER) transitioned from Living Effective Heritage, to accomodate some critical reflections and thought-provoking conversations on “what is often implied, meant, done, unsaid/stated with heritage.”
So what’s the significance of that?
While the Comparative Heritage in unable to claim that it has the perfect panaceas to the hydra-headed conundrums of psychosocial and econopolitical dilemmas, CHER brings in a rather unique trajectory into the conversation on social and cultural formations, community understandings and transformations, as well as what humans do with themselves along the lines of defining heritage–individualistically and communistically.
Every culture of violence begins with the privileging of one heritage construct over and against (others). Take some historical examples for illustration: Bosnia, Arab-Jewish, Nigeria-Biafra (Hausa/Igbo). An even closer-at-home example is the subject of racism as a global evil domiciled in the United States. While the dominant meaning/understanding of racism is often linked to color– many cultures around the world deem that “white people” are ghosts/spirits/apparations)–by racism here is meant racial bigotry, which is not exclusive to skin color imaginings!
Central, therefore, to understanding the work of the Comparative Heritage project and the conversations it facilitates are its inclusiveness of the subjects, social landscapes, and topics that fall beyond the center, straddling the peripheries, into the domain of human d/evolving and innovative capacity for invention; where there are no lacking in the foregoing, history is witness to the unrestrained will of the human person, not only to master nature or to conquer natural forces but also to desperately pursue after power for the ultimate subjugation of their fellow humans.
Comparative Heritage begins with the initial theoretical assumption that heritage is the cycle that wheels human beings. Due to the human imaginative power and capacity to draw from the past, both real or invented, heritage becomes a negotiating tool, which often develops into fully comprehensible suppressive political weapons of social ordering.
Whether for good or ill, “heritage” deserves a second, critical look. It is this benefit of the doubt which permits us the opportunity to begin to develop basic initiatives for respect and understanding for the legitimacy of others who do not belong in our own circle of heritage.