My Goodness, My Heritage! Constructing Good Heritage in the Irish Economic Crisis


  • Maja Lagerqvist Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University, Sweden



Global economic crisis, Ireland, heritage, representation, instrumentality, critical discourse analysis, Cultural policy


In 2008, the Republic of Ireland entered a severe financial crisis partly as a part of the global economic crisis. Since then, it has seen large raises in income taxes and cuts in state spending on health, welfare, education and on heritage, which has suffered relatively large cuts. This implies a need for rethinking choices and prioritisations to cope with the changing circumstances. Across Europe, the effects of the crisis on heritage, or the whole cultural sector, have yet mostly been highlighted in general or supposed terms rather than empirically analysed. But what actually happens to how heritage is conceptualised in times of crisis? Inspired by Critical Discourse Analysis, this paper explores representation of and argumentation for heritage in Irish state heritage policies pre and post the recession 2008. Much concerns regarding heritage management are discursively shaped. Policies, stating the authorised viewpoint, are thus key in the construction of heritage and its values in society. Recently, research has highlighted a shift towards more instrumentality in cultural policy due to wider societal changes. A crisis could influence such development. The analysis departs from an often-stated notion of heritage as a part of the Irish national recovery, but what does that imply? Focus is therefore put on how different representations of heritage and its values are present, argued for and compete in a situation with increasing competition regarding relevance and support. The paper shows how heritage matters are refocused, streamlined and packaged as productive, good-for-all, unproblematic and decomplexified in order to be perceived and valued as part of the national recovery. This includes privileging certain instrumental values, foremost economic, by means of specificity, space and quantification, while heritage’s contribution to social life, education or health, although often mentioned, are downplayed by being expressed in much more vague terms.


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