Cultural Education, Heritage, and Citizenship in the Belizean State

  • Cultural Education, Heritage, and Citizenship in the Belizean State

by Alicia McGill



This report summarizes the results of dissertation research conducted in Belize by Alicia McGill between 2005 and 2009. This work is an ethnographic examination of the Belizean state and citizenship through the domains of heritage practices and cultural education. The research was carried out in government elementary schools in two rural Kriol villages in north-central Belize and at heritage sites throughout the country, and included youth, teachers, community leaders, and national actors involved in education, tourism, and heritage management.In the country of Belize, heritage plays a fundamental role in nationalism and development. State messages about the country’s rich cultural diversity and past are promoted through cultural centers, archaeological research, tourism, and education. In this report, McGill explores state ideologies about national identity, cultural diversity, and citizenship that are filtered and reinforced through heritage and education practices. She analyzes the impacts of these state ideologies on the cultural production of citizens (primarily youth and community leaders, such as teachers) in two Belizean communities and demonstrates how cultural difference is managed in educational contexts. McGill addresses the ways ideologies embedded in heritage management practices limit definitions of and engagement with different forms of cultural heritage. This work also shows that some forms of cultural education emphasize certain cultural groups and practices over others. Youth and teachers are shown to consume and interpret state messages and replicate social structures. However, as active cultural agents, young people and community leaders also respond to and manipulate these ideologies as well, and McGill provides examples of these cultural negotiations.The research described in this report demonstrates what can be learned about broad cultural processes related to nationalism, cultural representation, identity, and citizenship through an examination of heritage practices and schooling. Youth perspectives contribute greatly to nuanced understandings of these processes. Results of this research include recognition of the negotiations between state structures and local people and the discovery that rectified concepts of heritage and culture are tools utilized by the state and citizens to promote rich heritage and cultural traditions on local, national, and global scales. The story presented in this report has many lessons for heritage workers, anthropologists, archaeologists, policy-makers, and educators. 


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Keywords: Citizenship, heritage education, cultural education, ideologies, policy


Suggested APA reference: McGill, A. (2012). Cultural Education, Heritage, and Citizenship in the Belizean State . Indiana: Indiana University. Unpublished Dissertation.

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