Minority Arts and Heritage: Border Work and Contact Zones

    • Cover Photo
    • Presentation speakers
      • Susan Ashley, Northumbria University, UK


    This paper examines the deployment of The Arts and Heritage by minority ethnic organisations in the Northeast of England. It examines how and why immigrant and ethnic peoples draw on ideas of ‘heritage’ in their artistic expressions, self-representations and ethno-centred creative organisations. Heritage is interpreted here as a relationship with the past – ideas, things or practices from the past that are valued and want to pass on to future generations. The paper presents the ways that heritage implicated in these diverse artistic or creative expressions has aesthetic, social, pedagogical and political motivations and impacts. Heritage expressed through the arts is a process of cultural production and active ‘making’ of individual and community senses of diversity. The paper critically inspects this as a performative and affective process by which minoritised people use ideas about the past or traditions to express creatively their place within the world, and strategically assert their voices in the public sphere. Particular attention is paid to the ways that heritage-making through the arts acts as ‘borderwork’ located outside of mainstream museums and arts organisations: as boundary-making or as contact zone or as engines of connectivity. Such diverse arts practices entail the use of minority heritage to react against dominant nation-based ideas of heritage. Heritage-based minority arts are also discussed as a vehicle for stereotypical cultural production, as well as a means to adapt and evolve new cultural forms. Empirical data gathered from seven diverse organisations in the Northeast of England will be presented. These organisations vary from single-entrepreneurships to established historical and art museums, but all reflect minority-centred expressions of identity, the arts and heritage.