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A critical autoethnographic study of context-related influences on cultural heritage preservation education of World Heritage sites in Northeastern Brazil

Nunes Penna, Karla (2018) A critical autoethnographic study of context-related influences on cultural heritage preservation education of World Heritage sites in Northeastern Brazil. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This is the story of my academic journey. The story of a science-minded technician educated within a positivist system, and her decision to engage in an enriching and painstaking process of self-discovery, reflection and awareness of how her experiences and chosen paths shaped her as a person and a professional. As the voices in my mind cried out ever louder, I felt I had to do something. After 13 years working as a cultural heritage manager responsible for several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Brazil, I decided in 2010 to engage in this academic journey because I was battling through personal and professional crises triggered by the inability to find answers and solutions to local preservation problems in Brazil.

When I started asking questions about the impact of political, social and cultural contexts on preservation education, I identified discrepancies that led me down the path of self-inquiry and examining the cultural heritage system that I used to be an integral part of. I adopted different paradigms and approaches along this investigation and, finally, I embraced a critical-constructivist perspective.

In order to address my research questions, I drew upon my own memories and participants' experiences. I set out to find a framework for transforming cultural heritage training and social relationships within the cultural preservation system in Brazil. My autoethnographic journey ended up linking the personal to pedagogical theory, centring attention on relationships between teachers and students, mirroring qualities of a humanizing pedagogy that I discovered and embraced, and which redefined and recreated my always evolving teacher-learner self.

I wrote my 'heroine's journey' in seven chapters, exploring topics, including, among others, autobiography, applied ethnography, critical narrative inquiry, and transformative learning. As a result of an emergent multiparadigmatic approach, the text of my thesis took different forms, including personal narratives, testimonies from my participants, and my drawings.

This academic journey culminated in the need to ‘renovate’ myself as a transformative educator, in the identification of complexities of working in the cultural heritage field in countries “discovered” by Europeans, and in the discussion of the characteristics of an education system rooted in and underpinned by a history of Western colonisation.

Keywords: Cultural heritage preservation education, World heritage sites management, Critical autoethnography, critical narrative inquiry, transformative learning

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): Taylor, Peter and Taylor, Elisabeth
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