by Alicia Ebbitt McGill
Publisher: University Press of Florida; 1st edition
Publication date: August 17, 2021
Hardcover: 288 pages
This book offers a unique perspective by blending extensive ethnographic research with British imperial archives to unveil how cultural heritage has been shaped and contested by various actors in Belize, spanning from the late 19th century to the present.
Alicia McGill’s work delves into the heritage of two Kriol communities of African descent, within the realms of archaeology and formal education.
McGill’s research reveals that Belizean institutions, both during colonial and independent periods, have strategically harnessed heritage sites and ideas to manage diversity, exercise governance over their populace, and advance development objectives.
In the communities under scrutiny, there is a notable emphasis on venerating ancient Maya cities and their legacies, often overshadowing Kriol histories and perpetuating racial and ethnic disparities.
Nevertheless, McGill highlights the resilience of Belizean teachers and children who persist in preserving their Kriol identity through storytelling, sustainable practices, and their interaction with local ecological resources. They also creatively establish links between their contemporary identities and the ancient cultures that once inhabited their regions.
By framing heritage as a social construct, McGill exemplifies the multifaceted ways in which individuals construct values, interpretations, and traditions surrounding it. “Negotiating Heritage through Education and Archaeology” emerges as an insightful study that underscores the significance of community-driven involvement in the realms of public history and heritage studies.