This international conference aims to enlarge the discussion around the first results of the EXPER research project1, which studies the underexplored links between cultural imaginaries and the glocal uses of World Heritage sites characterized by both heritage and religious rituals. Although unique, such iconic sites generate powerful imaginaries in the eyes of spiritual, touristic, scholarly or civic communities, forming glocal spaces for sharing meanings and values. However, they also face divergent appropriation regimes and conflicts of uses. Since properties are inscribed by Unesco with a view to being preserved, we also wish to explore how the sites’ very vulnerability to sudden or slow destruction (fire, floods, global warming, overtourism, etc.) impacts their relationship with users. Our objective is to learn from the varied EXPERiences and diverse EXPERtise of publics, stakeholders and professionals to improve site conservation, management, interpretation and mediation. Three sites inscribed on the World Heritage List have served as our starting point: “Paris, Banks of the Seine” (including Notre-Dame de Paris), the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra” and the site of Westminster (including Westminster Abbey) in London.

This conference wishes to confront a larger variety of international case studies and complementary theoretical frameworks to explore the research questions developed in the EXPER project:

  • How do World Heritage religious sites participate in the construction of glocal imaginaries?
  • What are the specific management, use and mediation issues for such sites faced with mass tourism?
  • Do these sites create a glocal community? Around which values, spiritualities and with what effects?

We welcome papers aiming to better understand the representations, experiences and multiscalar appropriations associated to the sites to discuss the relationship between heritage, religion and spirituality. The aim is both to shed light on their fundamental role in the formation of global identities and to study their effects on the complexity of human interactions. The conference will more specifically address, in a transversal way, the following issues: glocal circulations of religious / spiritual /  heritage / civic / touristic / environmental beliefs, values, rituals, representations; users’ emotions, experiences and appropriations; the effect of the Unesco inscriptions on imagninaries and site management; the sites’ approach to intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

Multidisciplinary contributions, based on theory or ethnography, from discourse to practice, are called for from a diversity of social and human sciences, particularly those that will unveil the role of such sites in glocal communion or conflict, by exploring how heritage, spirituality and scales intersect in the following themes:

  • complex sites as universal commons or multifaceted commodities: multi-ritualized, multi-heritagized, multi-spaced, multi-performative (religious/cultural/civic spaces and events, memorials, celebrations, etc.);
  • glocal imaginaries and appropriations from diverse publics: past/present, onsite/remote, dominant/ minority rituals and neo spiritualities (narratives, participation, poly-sensoriality, digital, etc.);
  • mitigating conflicts: stakeholder’s surveys; digital mapping; inclusive interpretation and mediation; contact zones and shared events versus dissociating publics (price policy, time / space allocation, etc.);
  • heritage/religion/nature in competition or mutually reinforcing: sacrality and spirituality in
    environmental cultures; vulnerabilities, conservation and sustainable development; etc.

With the support of our partners, our results will inform the training of professionals, the management of sites and the design heritage policies. For more information, please visit the website of Fondation des sciences du patrimoine.