Decay Without Mourning


This project proposes foregrounding decay as a central concern of heritage studies globally. We suggest that decay would allow heritage to be understood not as a rearguard action against loss but rather as a creative and generative process. We propose to link heritage studies to broader concerns of ecological and environmental sustainability where interventions against loss may be less powerful than cultivating a sensibility for the precariousness of the present and its im/potential. 

We draw on a wide variety of expertise in geographical areas often neglected in English-language research, each with unique socio-political and socio- environmental conditions making them rich sites to study decay: South Africa, Japan, Brazil, and Antarctica. We investigate different domains including archives and museums, heritage practices, landscapes, indigenous knowledge, food heritage, environmental history and nature conservation. 

We will test our ideas through curatorial interventions; performances and exhibition making; alternative strategies of archive and museum making, collecting and preservation, information processing and distribution; and public engagement with ongoing preservation and heritage debates.

Our aim is that this project will lead to more robust and generative understandings of decay in a globalised, yet also localised world.


Project partners 


Project funders