José Antonio González Zarandona

University of Melbourne

I was born in Mexico, where I studied Communication Sciences, and Literary Studies. I arrived in Australia in 2007 to start my M.A. in Film Studies. Likewise I also worked at the National Gallery of Victoria before starting my PhD in Art History at the University of Melbourne in 2009. My research focuses on the destruction of Aboriginal rock art in Western Australia. I have published articles in several journals and magazines (printed and on-line) from Australia, Mexico and the USA.

Heritage as a Cultural Measure

The problematic that defines heritage is no more dramatically contested than in Australia and other post-colonial societies which are finding it hard to include the cultural heritage of the previous cultures that inhabited the area, thus contributing to the problematic of cultural measurement.

Heritage is defined on different levels. My PhD case study, the rock art in the Dampier Archipelago (Western Australia) can be considered international, national, state, local and on top of that Aboriginal heritage. Whereas other countries such as Mexico or France, have dealt with the problem more easily, there are case studies in Australia where Aboriginal heritage is being denied the status of cultural heritage, and thus marginalizing it. This is in fact caused by the cross-cultural entanglement in which the concept of heritage is still defined within Western methodologies, the culmination of which is reflected in UNESCO’s “beautiful visions and pious hopes” as Homi Bhabha claims.

Thus, the attempt to democratize the process of cultural measurement cannot be made, until Aboriginal heritage is considered along other important heritage sites. As not every site is measured with the same scale and against the same values, a division between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage is drawn. In turn, this division causes neglect, and in some extreme cases, the removal and destruction of Aboriginal heritage sites. Since the industries established in the Dampier Archipelago in the 1960s, Aboriginal heritage sites have been subjected to the whims of the industry causing destruction of the petroglyphs and the local Aboriginal community. In this paper I will argue that measuring Aboriginal culture has considerably failed in this regard in Australia, leading to an unbalanced cultural heritage system.

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