Billets educação patrimonial

The Fallen Angel and the lessons of history for a decolonial heritage

In a postcard placed on the Museum list, our colleague Pedro Cardoso Pereira warns of the process of relevance in heritage.
His thesis, with which we are in agreement, is based on the idea that today, what we call Heritage (which in fact is already due to its inheritance complexity) has undergone a paradigm shift. As such, it argues what we call Heritage (s) has lost relevance. The question of the structure of relevance in heritage is one of the contributions of this colleague of ours to the Studies of Heritage. These contributions are worth reading and knowing. But that is not what caught our attention.
The issue that interests us here is the paradigm shift. The question of the paradigm is another complex issue that since Tomás Khun affects the philosophy of Science. In other words, the thesis is that in the face of a paradigm transformation, the structure of relevance (the complex of socially constructed values) also changes. In other words, a given historical time has a set of characteristics (social values) that we can observe through the respective heritage, or set of social objects that have been left to us. Now, the question that is worth discussing is knowing what to do with legacy objects, which in a given transition process cease to have the social relevance attributed to them. Symbolic, political or legitimacy relevance.
In metaphorical terms, this is Walter Benjamim’s IX thesis on the Philosophy of History, where the Angel of History analyzes the “angelus novus”. Time, progress, development, civilization, inevitably turns the past into ruins.

Paul Klee: Angelus Novus, 1922 Fotograma do Museu de Israel

The maelstrom of destruction is inevitable. Winners destroy losers, reducing them to silence. The problem is that as Walter Benjamim observed in his time (that of the rise of Nazism in Germany) it is to realize that “what constitutes horror to those who contemplate the triumphal procession of the winners, those who humiliate the bodies of the losers, (as a metaphor for their victory) is that they do not understand that this humiliation is at the same time the negation of their triumph and their civilization ”.

Now if I understand Benjamin’s theses (with all the messianism that they incorporate), it will be necessary to overcome this cycle of destruction and violence by a cycle of understanding creativity. The overcoming of colonialism (of thought) and racism (in society) is not a discussion about whether or not it exists, but a discussion about how we are going to create other assets that are relevant in the present.

I really like to mention the case of the heritage built by the Portuguese in Mozambique. To simplify, I will use the example of the statue of Salazar that is in the Mint of Maputo. What the Mozambicans did. They punished me. Facing a corner. It hadn’t destroyed it, or it melted (it’s bronze). So they did with inherited heritage. It is undoubtedly contested, controversial, violent. But only by recognizing it was it possible to build a new heritage. These assets are like fallen angels, which, after having been useful, dissolve in the dust of time, to reconfigure themselves again.

In another thing, our colleague Pedro Cardoso Pereira is also right. Our universities are responsible for exaltation in dealing with questions of history. The grain of simplicity in problematizing heritage issues makes them co-responsible for violence in society. The inability to read the real (they are also institutions from other times) left them besieged in the “activist” pedagogies of the narratives of the politically correct ”and of the fashions imported from the American continent. It would be necessary for this to be an assertive pedagogy, which instead of proclamations and public acts of personal affirmation, would focus on decolonial pedagogy, working on the disputed inheritances on the basis of a culture of peace. Uprising is useless without liberation. But that will be for another occasion.

Por Pedro Pereira Leite

Pedro Pereira Leite:
Guest Professor at Lusophone University where he is a member of the executive board of the UNITWIN Chair of UNESCO "Education, Citizenship and Cultural Diversity" (2018-2022). He has been a professor in the PhD and Master's programs in Museology since 2011. He is currently promoting the installation of the MED Museum of Global Education and Cultural Diversity, a program to include local knowledge and memories to create sustainable communities.
He is Member of the Direction of the International Movement for a New Museology (MINOM / ICOM). Integrates the member bodies of ICOM Portugal (2014 - 2020). He is part of several research networks and has collaborated with the UNESCO School Network and the Educating Cities Network in Portugal. It develops research activity in Portugal, Spain, Brazil and in Mozambique.
It maintains the research book Education, Citizenship and Cultural Diversity ( and Social Museology and Ecomuseus in Portugal (
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