The systematic constitution of Heritage Studies as a separate discipline was the aim of the UNESCO Chair in Heritage Studies at the Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus-Senftenberg, under the lead of its chairholder, Marie-Theres Albert (The Cottbus Declaration on Heritage Studies, Cottbus 2012).
As director of the “Institute Heritage Studies” (IHS), she continues this paradigmatic orientation of Heritage Studies and sets new accents. Since then, the distinctive feature of the IHS consists in the special positioning of Heritage Studies as a contributor to sustainable human development. For this purpose, it was necessary to clarify which disciplinary, inter- and/or trans-disciplinary approaches should be integrated into Heritage Studies, and which epistemological and methodological preferences could and should they be assigned. Therefore, the unique feature of the IHS also consists in its succeeding to position the construct “heritage” under the conditions of globalization and its transformative processes, and to provide solution strategies for associated challenges.
The Heritage Studies of the IHS broadens the understanding and the perceptions of heritage beyond the usual narrow use of the term as material and immaterial heritage by UNESCO, by including in the understanding of heritage its identity-building potential, and therewith of peace (Teaching Manual – UNESCO and its mission to protect people’s heritage and identity, Authors: Prof. Dr. Marie-Theres Albert, Claudia Grünberg and Hannah Röhlen [Institute Heritage Studies (IHS) at the INA – International Academy Berlin gGmbH]) and therein lies also the understanding of sustainability of the IHS. Identity and sustainability require responsibility for heritage, and this in turn can only be implemented successfully, if all heritage-concerned target groups are integrated in the protection and use processes. Here we come full circle from previously isolated research approaches to heritage and their implementation.
The Heritage Studies of IHS positions itself as a critical discipline, which processes its research questions and subjects inter- and/or transdisciplinarily, but which explicitly derive from the demands of the living conditions that are changing daily, and differently for the people of the world. This includes, in the first place, positioning the knowledge interest in the context of the diversity of our world. Further, it means reflecting the diversity of the world in the approaches and methods of Heritage Studies, without becoming arbitrary. Not least, it means developing strategies for the future, such as for a sustainable handling of heritage. In other words, it is not about abstract knowledge gain, but explicitly about conceptualizing Heritage Studies paradigmatically for human development, as it has been presented, for example in the publication “Understanding Heritage”.