Indigenous governance of cultural heritage: searching for alternatives to co-management

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In this paper, we critically examine the co-management of Indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage as simultaneously a driver and product of the culturalisation of Indigenous peoples: the reduction of complex legal- political orders, anchored in specific lands, value systems, rights, and prac- tices, to material cultures. Co-management has been hailed as a defensibly imperfect, ‘tweakable’ system that benefits both Indigenous and state parties, and moreover, a stepping stone to Indigenous self-determination. Departing from these analyses, we argue that co-management is not just an administrative arrangement but also a state-ratified international rights regime, and accordingly, that it cannot do other than undermine Indigenous self-determination and imperil Indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage. We suggest that cultural heritage can only thrive by being actively engaged with in situ: via the living practice of Indigenous governance. Operationalising our argument, we first consider the challenges of cultural heritage protection in Sápmi; specifically, the co-management of Laponia, in Sweden, and the unprotected sacred area of Suttesája in Finland. We then discuss a more promising framework: the Quechua ‘Biocultural Heritage Territory’ of the Parque de la Papa, in Peru. Finally, we apply the lessons of the Parque to Suttesája, showing how this opens up governance-based avenues to safeguarding Indigenous sacred areas.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Dec 2019
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed