Diffusion and decoupling in the world heritage movement: exploring global/local tensions in Africa
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Towson University. Department of Anthropology, Sociology & Criminal Justice
Citation of Original Publication
Elliott, Michael A. and Vaughn Schmutz. 2016. "Diffusion and decoupling in the world heritage movement: exploring global/local tensions in Africa." European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology (3)2-3. Retrieved September 20, 2021 (https://doi.org/10.1080/23254823.2016.1194767).
A common critique of world society theory is that it overemphasises processes of institutional expansion and isomorphism, and underemphasises instances of decoupling and local variation. We address this concern head-on through an analysis of the world heritage movement. On the one hand, we detail how this movement has expanded into a global institution with highly standardised procedures for evaluating the ‘outstanding universal value’ of cultural and natural sites around the world. On the other hand, we detail how these procedures involve rational-scientiﬁc assumptions about evaluation that lead to regional inequality, hindering the ability of less developed countries to successfully nominate, inscribe and manage world heritage sites. With a speciﬁc focus on African countries, we identify how decoupling occurs in two distinct ways that hamper their participation in the world heritage movement: (1) a lack of scientiﬁc and technical expertise and (2) a cultural mismatch between local and global conceptions of universal value.