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Dilapidated huts and piles of rocks : the geopolitics of cultural heritage in Antarctica

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Hingley, RE ORCID: 0000-0002-2148-9410 2021 , 'Dilapidated huts and piles of rocks : the geopolitics of cultural heritage in Antarctica', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The idea of heritage in Antarctica stereotypically evokes images of disintegrating huts buried under snow or ice, and rock cairns scattered across the continent. Similarly, it might be thought that the challenges of heritage management in this polar region are limited to maintaining the physical longevity of sites situated in an extreme and remote environment. But these historic remains are powerful political resources as well as vulnerable cultural artefacts. This thesis examines how Antarctic heritage is deployed for geopolitical means by states, providing them with an alternative pathway to influence international affairs. This appropriation of cultural heritage is of particular importance to the currently well-managed, yet technically unresolved, issue of sovereignty south of 60° South latitude. Although the region’s overarching governing regime specifically prohibits states from asserting sovereignty within this geographical area, states can enhance their presence in Antarctica by treating historical sites and monuments as signifiers of territorial occupation. The aim of this thesis is therefore to expose how and why the governance of Antarctic heritage concerns more than the preservation and conservation of historic remains, and what effects these alternative agendas have on multilateral relations.
Previous research has established the inherently political nature of cultural heritage and its management in Antarctica. This thesis deepens and extends this research by: arguing that there is an official discourse on Antarctic heritage; examining who this discourse has been constructed by (and whom it benefits); critically analysing the underlying assumptions of this discourse; and investigating how states have applied this discourse within the practice of international relations.
The analysis draws primarily upon scholarship from two disciplines, Political Geography and Heritage Studies. Both of these fields of research support a critical interpretation that not only problematises how states have managed and engaged with Antarctic heritage, but also questions what cultural heritage in Antarctica actually is. Under these broad disciplinary mandates, this thesis employs a discourse analysis as its methodological framework to interrogate the conceptualisation and content of the official discourse on Antarctic heritage, and to investigate how this dominant discourse can and has been geopolitically manipulated by states operating in the polar region.
Structurally, the thesis is centred around three primary research questions. The first asks, ‘Whose perspective on Antarctic heritage counts?’ Both qualitative and quantitative coding techniques are used to answer this question, identifying claimant states as responsible for the definition and treatment of Antarctic Historic Sites and Monuments (HSMs) to date. The second research question asks, ‘How have states deployed Antarctic heritage for geopolitical means?’ Here, a geopolitical reading is used to analyse the ways in which states have exploited Antarctic heritage – within exercises of de facto sovereignty; to bolster nation-building strategies; and to meet environmental expectations. The third and final research question asks, ‘Which non-state actors have engaged with Antarctic heritage?’ Again, a geopolitical reading is the chosen method, revealing that although states are the most powerful actors in the region at present, other non-state actors – including the tourism industry, non-governmental organisations, and individuals – can and do perceive of Antarctic heritage differently to states.
In answering these questions, this thesis offers an in-depth and nuanced account of how Antarctic heritage has come to be officially curated and deployed, and also outlines the current and potential future geopolitical implications of a statist interpretation of heritage within Antarctic affairs.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Hingley, RE
Keywords: Antarctic geopolitics, Antarctic heritage, critical polar geopolitics, discourse analysis, Heritage Studies, Antarctic Studies
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