on April 9, 2021
  • Research

Published on April 11, 2021 Updated on October 11, 2021

The UMR Héritages, Cultures, Patrimoines et Créations, a new joint research unit led by CY Cergy Paris University, the CNRS and the French Ministry of Culture

On January 1, 2021, the UMR Héritages, Cultures, Patrimoines et Créations was created with the aim of bringing together a multidisciplinary team of researchers from CY Cergy Paris University, the CNRS and the French Ministry of Culture. We met with Julie Amiot-Guillouet, Full Professor at CY Cergy Paris University and deputy director of the AGORA laboratory, to learn more about this joint research unit (UMR) and its objectives.

Can you give us a brief introduction to the UMR Héritages ? And tell us more about what an UMR is?

An UMR, a Joint Research Unit, is a laboratory created by a contract of association between one or more research laboratories of a higher education institution or a research organization with the CNRS
In our case, the UMR Héritages, Cultures, Patrimoines et Créations (UMR 9022) is supported by CY Cergy Paris University, the CNRS and the French Ministry of Culture, and stems from a desire by the Ministry and the CNRS to set up a research unit on issues of culture, heritage and creation.  
They naturally approached CY Cergy Paris University, which has been working for a good ten years on subjects related to heritage, notably within the CY Initiative (I-SITE), the PIA EUR Humanity, Heritage and Creation programme and via the AGORA laboratory. Its position as a founding member of the Fondation des Sciences du patrimoine was also a real asset. On the other hand, a team of anthropologists from the CNRS and the Ministry of Culture in delegation to the CNRS, gathered in the Laboratory of Anthropology and History of the Institution of Culture (LAHIC) was chosen as a partner in this creation.
It is therefore an institutional dynamic that allowed the UMR Héritages, Cultures, Patrimoines et Créations to emerge.

The AGORA laboratory of CY Cergy Paris University, dedicated to research on civilization, cultural identities, texts and Francophone countries, was identified as the driving force behind the creation of this UMR. As a multidisciplinary laboratory, it brought together historians, literary scholars, specialists in areal studies and the visual arts and was itself the result of the merger of two laboratories. I took on the role of Deputy Director in the summer of 2019 in order to establish the roadmap to work on the creation of the UMR and to make sure that the new plan to divide the laboratory in two would take place under the best conditions. 
We are now in the process of setting up this beautiful project, scientifically validated in the summer of 2020 by the CNRS, which has decided to make it an UMR that shall be evaluated after two years.

What issues is the UMR working on and how?

The UMR Héritages, Cultures, Patrimoines et Créations is structured around three approaches which are then translated into the form of three research dynamics. 
The first approach consists of focusing on all aspects of the creation and heritage processes, with questions such as: when do we decide that an object becomes an object of heritage? Or at what point do we decide that an object is just any object or not heritage? When do we consider that an object becomes an object of creation?  What are the temporalities of these processes? Who are the actors? This may be of particular interest for all practices considered "non-legitimate" or for more popular and collective practices. At what point do we take a look at involving the recognition of creation or a look at the recognition of a heritage object on objects that might not benefit from this kind of validation? 
These are questions around legitimacy and devices, but also of the institutions that relay the recognition of this legitimacy. For creation, this can be, for example, to study cultural support funds, to study the festivals in which artistic objects are circulated, whether they are literary, cinematographic or of any other nature. 

The second approach, which complements the first, will concern all the works that aim to highlight the tensions, mobilizations and resistances that these devices and processes can generate. For example, some colleagues are working on Unesco's labels and in particular the "world heritage" label. There are people who are in favor of these labels because they bring benefits, whether symbolic or in terms of visibility or tourist yield. But, there are also people who are against it because they believe that it deviates from the entirety of a culture or heritage, especially when the label is linked to commercial abuses. They believe that labels are also harmful to the communities who live at the heart of these creations and heritages. 
These questions also arise for works that do not circulate and have no access to these funds, events or labels. What type of work and community does this concern? And there, obviously, the notion of comparison will be very important.

The third very important thematic field is the question of the concrete characterization of cultural links and patrimonialization. This concerns both 
 tangible heritage and intangible heritage. We will look at the objects, how they are treated, how they are valorized, how they are circulated....
This implies taking into account museum policies, but also efforts to preserve heritage objects in archives for example. Additionally, it will be important to examine the question of historical research and archaeology in particular, which bring to light objects and documents, some of which are then exhibited to audiences that go well beyond the academic world. Here again, the reflective dimension is at the heart of our concerns.

These three approaches respond to and complement each other and are accompanied by the implementation of three work dynamics that allow for transversality and transdisciplinarity. 
We thus find the historical authenticity that applies to the three approaches. In fact, patrimonialization has a history. The moment when we decide that an object is part of the heritage is linked to that specific instant. It obviously concerns questions of tension, resistance and mobilization because there are perhaps moments that are more favorable to the structuring of groups or collectives that will express and make visible their discontent, questions or challenges.  And in the same way, on the question of the characterization of material goods, we have in our research team historians and archaeologists who work, for example, on the materiality of architectural constructions, the history of firearms insofar as it contributes to shedding light on the evolution of war practices.. Historical authenticity is a working dynamic, a dynamic of interrogation of our themes that run through all the themes we have identified.
Then we find globalization and the effects of scale. Due to the diversity of the profiles of the researchers in the laboratory and the issues addressed, our ambition is to take a look at these notions on a global scale as well as locally, regionally, on the scale of a city or a community. 
And finally, our research work is based on reflexivity, which aims to question not only the practices but the principles themselves. What do we mean by heritage? What do we find behind the terms creation or culture? How do we define culture and its evolution in time and space?

These approaches and research dynamics allow us to bring together a multidisciplinary team and to lay the groundwork for high quality research.

How is the research work of the UMR structured today?

In order to structure the research work of the laboratory and to make the researchers interact within the unit, we have chosen to create three structuring axes:

  • the patrimonialization of knowledge and the establishment of cultures
  • the experiences, practices and actors of creation and patrimonialization
  • knowledge and transmission

These three axes take up in a large part the research themes that we have identified in the framework of the laboratory. 
In addition to this, each year we are going to reflect on a theme that we call the Ariane's thread, a theme that is transversal to all the researchers and that will allow us to organize a scientific event in which we will all come together to exchange on a common question but from our different disciplines and points of view.

What are the links between the UMR and the institutions? And what is the place of UMR in current issues?

Within the UMR, certain large-scale collective projects are already being carried out by permanent members of the laboratory. For example, the Scientific Interest Group (GIS) "Patrimoines en partage", a CNRS structure that brings together some fifty partners, or the GARAE ethnopole (Audois Group for Ethnographic Research and Animation), which has a documentation center for ethnology and literature, and works to promote research in ethnology. On the side of the teacher-researchers of CY Cergy Paris University, we host the work of the international collective "Ecritures Créatives en Formation," linked to the Master's degree "Métiers de l'écriture et de la création littéraire."

The UMR's objective is to develop research related to the issues of institutions or cultural actors such as museums, archives, etc. These are scientific practices that are already highly developed by our researchers.
In our unit, for example, we have a staff member from the French Ministry of Culture who has been seconded to the CNRS to work on a project on Notre-Dame de Paris. There are notably all the very material aspects (stained glass, wood, etc.) in this project, but this researcher is working on heritage emotions in relation to the fire and heritage reconstruction. A vast subject to approach. 

Our strong link with the Fondation des Sciences du Patrimoine is also a gateway to all the institutions of the Foundation that could call upon us to work on a given issue.

What are its short and medium term objectives?

Created on January 1, 2021, the UMR is now in its launching phase. We will have to structure and set up the unit, particularly with regard to the diversity of the researchers' profiles. In actuality, the UMR is composed of 39 teacher-researchers, 8 CNRS researchers and a little more than 90 PhD students.
We have already set up the axes and organized a first progress meeting with the researchers of each axis. It is thus a question of bringing our axes to life and allowing our researchers to interact the way they consider most appropriate. 
During the next two years, our objective is also to surround ourselves with quality associate members, whom we are in the process of recruiting, but also to submit applications to calls for projects. 
The goal is, of course, to build a collective around structuring projects by developing the defined research axes. This will also involve research seminars and workshops.

Our goal is to present the results of this first year and a half of research during a major scientific event in June or September 2022.