Dr. Helaine Silverman

Research Interests

  • cultural heritage, cultural politics, cultural governance, cultural rights
  • anthropology of tourism
  • critical museum studies
  • memory, identity, nationalism
  • historic urban environments
  • architecture and the built environment
  • spatial theory
  • anthropology of death
  • encounters with the past as popular culture
  • geographical areas: Peru, Southeast Asia, England

Research Description

I am an archaeologist with expertise in ancient south coast societies of Peru (see narrative CV). Frequent media attention to my Nasca research led me to shift away from excavation to heritage studies related to archaeology and historic urban centers. 

My heritage research focuses on the role of archaeology and ancient societies in the construction of space, place, memory, and identity in contemporary nation-states, and how the nation-state, its official agencies and manifold constituencies, as well as the global tourism industry and popular media, produce a national past, inform contemporary national identities, and generate a national “brand” through appropriation and representation of the past. My emphasis is on the intersections of local, national, and international heritage management practices with communities under conditions of globalization and tourism.

I have applied this suite of interests to an ethnographic/applied archaeology project in Cuzco, Peru since 2003. The first stage of this project concentrated on the program of a former mayor of Cuzco, Daniel Estrada (1984-1986, 1990-1995), to construct a “new Inca city” by means of a “neo-Inca” embellishment of the historic urban center accompanied by a strong cuzqueñismo discourse. I also have studied the bitter controversy over a subsequent mayor’s erection (2011) of a bronze statue of an Inca king atop the fountain in the center of the Plaza de Armas, which continues to be debated. I return frequently to Cuzco to study the evolution of the historic urban center with a focus on the complexities of local use of public space, local construction of identity, and the inexorable conquest of private space by the tourism sector.

In 2011 I worked in Phimai, a town in northeast Thailand whose ancient Khmer temple is on Thailand’s Tentative List for inscription on the World Heritage List. I documented the town prior to its inscription in terms of the built environment, its economy, popular attitudes toward the past, local construction of cultural heritage and official heritage management of the temple. Once inscribed, I will return to Phimai to assess changes in these domains.

My two current research projects are linked by their attention to cultural heritage in the context of highly developed nations – the U.S. and England. The basic question is what does heritage do in these contexts rather than in developing countries (from very poor and challenged to much better off). The Mythic Mississippi (co-directed by Paul Kapp, School of Architecture, UIUC) focuses on Nauvoo, Illinois and Collinsville, Illinois and will extend to other towns along the river. Nauvoo was and is an epicenter of the Mormon religion. We are interested in the contemporary performance and built environment of Mormon heritage, local inter-group dynamics in town and the intersection with tourism. The Collinsville project is predicated on the incorporation of the Cahokia World Heritage Site within the town’s boundary. Our preliminary research reveals a notable lack of interest in the site. Rather, the cultural heritage that is expressed and entrepreurially exploited is the “World’s Largest Catsup Bottle” and its festival, the Italian Fest and the Horseradish Festival. We are interested in local construction of heritage, local historical knowledge, and the interaction between the city and the Cahokia site.

My fieldwork in England has been conducted at the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site and now in Durham. The issue in Ironbridge Gorge is the long-term marketing of the site as “Birthplace of Industry” with little official interest in it as a World Heritage Site and even less popular interest in its World Heritage status. Rather, there is widespread awareness and enthusiasm for the gorge as national industrial heritage. Whereas the national industrial heritage of Ironbridge Gorge is the focus of interpretation at this World Heritage Site, the industrial heritage underwriting the history and wealth of the Durham Cathedral and Castle World Heritage Site is almost invisible in the official script. Under the leadership of Dr. Andreas Pantazatos (Co-Director, Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage, Durham University), we are studying the mining heritage of Durham as it is expressed in the annual Gala when residents of the former mining towns come into the elite center and we are working in their home communities where a major effort is underway to remember and empower labor history and its bearers.

I am the co-editor of two book series: “Heritage, Tourism and Community,” for Routledge (with Mike Robinson, Director, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham, UK) and ICAHM’s  “Multidisciplinary Perspectives in Archaeological Heritage Management,” published by Springer (with Douglas Comer, President, ICAHM Board). I am an Expert Member of ICAHM (ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management) and ICTC (ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Cultural Tourism). I currently serve on the editorial boards of International Journal of Heritage Studies, Heritage and Society, World Art, Built Heritage and Thema (among others).

I am the Director CHAMP (Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy). See: champ.anthro.illinois.edu.

Education

  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
  • MA, Anthropology, Columbia University
  • BA, Anthropology, Queens College of the City University of New York

Courses

  • Anth 175: Archaeology and Popular Culture
  • Anth 180: Anthropology and Archaeology of Death
  • Anth 224: Tourist Cities and Sites
  • Anth 420: Case Studies in Global Heritage
  • Anth 460: Heritage Management
  • Anth 462: Museum Theory and Practice
  • Anth 557: Social Construction of Space
  • GLBL 298: Tourism and Economic Development in Peru

Selected Publications

Books

Heritage of Death: Landscapes of Emotion, Memory, and Practice edited by Mattias Frihammar and Helaine Silverman. Edited by Mattias Frihammar and Helaine Silverman, Routledge 2018.
Heritage in Action. Making the Past in the Present edited by Helaine Silverman, Emma Waterton, and Steve Watson. Edited by Helaine Silverman, Emma Waterton, and Steve Watson, Springer 2017.
Encounters With Popular Pasts. Heritage and Popular Culture edited by Mike Robinson and Helaine Silverman. Edited by Mike Robinson and Helaine Silverman, NY Springer 2015.
Cultural Heritage Politics in China edited by Tami Blumenfield and Helaine Silverman. Edited by Tami Blumenfield and Helaine Silverman, NY Springer 2013.
Contested Cultural Heritage: Religion, Nationalism, Erasure and Exclusion in a Global World edited by Helaine Silverman. Edited by Helaine Silverman, NY Springer 2011.
Intangible Heritage Embodied edited by D. Fairchild Ruggles and Helaine Silverman. Edited by D. Fairchild Ruggles and Helaine Silverman, NY Springer 2009.
Handbook of South American Archaeology edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell. Edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell, NY Springer 2008.
Cultural Heritage and Human Rights edited by Helaine Silverman and D. Fairchild Ruggles. Edited by Helaine Silverman and D. Fairchild Ruggles, NY Springer 2007.
Archaeological Site Museums in Latin America edited by Helaine Silverman. Edited by Helaine Silverman, Gainesville University Press of Florida 2006.
Andean Archaeology III: North and South edited by William Isbell and Helaine Silverman. Edited by William Isbell and Helaine Silverman, NY Springer 2006.
Anthropology and Humanism, volume 30, number 2, Themed issue: “Performance, Tourism and Ethnographic Practice: An Exploration of the Work of Edward M. Bruner” edited by Helaine Silverman. Edited by Helaine Silverman, 2005.
Andean Archaeology edited by Helaine Silverman. Edited by Helaine Silverman, Blackwell 2004.
Andean Archaeology II: Art, Landscape, and Society edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell. Edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell, Plenum/Kluwer 2002.
Andean Archaeology I: Variations in Sociopolitical Organization edited by William Isbell and Helaine Silverman. Edited by William Isbell and Helaine Silverman, Plenum/Kluwer 2002.
Silverman, Helaine Ancient Nasca Settlement and Society Iowa City University of Iowa Press 2002.
Silverman, Helaine, and Donald A. Proulx The Nasca Oxford Blackwell Publishers 2002.
The Space and Place of Death edited by Helaine Silverman and David Small. Edited by Helaine Silverman and David Small, Washington, D.C. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, Number 11 2002.
Silverman, Helaine Ancient Peruvian Art. An Annotated Bibliography NY G. K. Hall/Simon & Schuster Macmillan 1996.
Silverman, Helaine Cahuachi in the Ancient Nasca World Iowa City University of Iowa Press 1993.