Advances in Anthropology
2013. Vol.3, No.3, 142-148
Published Online August 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/aa) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aa.2013.33019
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
From Committee to Controversy: An Actor-Network Analysis of
the Re-Organization of the Norwegian CHM
Svein Vatsvag Nielsen
Department for Regional Development, East-Agder County Council, Arendal, Norway
Received March 1st, 2013; revised April 1st, 2013; accepted May 19th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Svein Vatsvag Nielsen. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cited.
Starting in 1986 and ending in 2001, the Norwegian cultural heritage management (CHM) underwent a
re-organization. Following the revised Heritage Act of 1978 the protective devise needed revision. The 19
County Councils received increased authority after the Act in 1990, while the five archaeological gov-
ernment museums decreased their authority, and were set to focus solely on traditional cultural historic
research. The restructuring changed the expert knowledge systems (i.e. institutionalized scientific knowl-
edge) integrated in the CHM, and the process was met with suspicion in the academic community. By
conducting a close reading of two central governance policy documents from the 1980’s, the
re-organization is analyzed in accordance with the methodology of ANT. It is argued that as the
re-organization can be considered a success with respect to its political goals, it was nonetheless also a
destructive event. The relational effects of the re-organization are then analyzed in relation to Bruno La-
tour’s theory of political ecology. Here it is argued that the democratizing and distributional effects on the
involved sciences (i.e. archaeology) can be read as an “ecologizing” event, and eventually, that the aca-
demic controversy is further proof of this. In the end, the author argues for the potential of CHM studies
to enrich the larger discourse on modernity and the political practice of modernizing.
Keywords: Organization; History; Archaeology; Political Ecology; Modernity; CHM; ANT
“‘Ecologising’ means creating the procedures that make
it possible to follow a network of quasi-objects whose re-
lations of subordinates remain uncertain and which thus
require a new form of political activity adapted to follow
them” (Latour, 1998: p. 22).
Why not start with a year. It was 1979 and the chosen thir-
teen had gathered in Oslo for the first time. They were all rep-
resentatives from central institutions involved in the Norwegian
Cultural Heritage Management (CHM), including the five ar-
chaeological government museums, the Directorate for Cultural
Heritage, the Ministry of the Environment, the Norwegian Fed-
eration of Municipalities, the rationing Affair—in short, key
politicians and prominent experts on the field. They had been
appointed by the Government to examine the basis for a new
organization of the Norwegian CHM. The group was well
known in political and academic circles, where they simply
went under the name “the organization committee”.
In the years prior to the establishment of the committee, it
had become increasingly clear that the State’s protective device
had failed to prepare for the responsibilities that were to follow
the new Heritage Act of 1978. The loss of prehistoric monu-
ments was increasing, and the system simply did not function
anymore. The Norwegian CHM had to be re-organized.
In the course of the next four years the committee held a total
of 24 meetings, resulting finally in a thick Official Norwegian
Report (NOU, 1982: p. 36). The core point was simple;
from a “distinctly offensive position” the Norwegian CHM
were to develop an “aggressive approach with a targeted,
long-term protection policy” (NOU, 1982: p. 36, authors trans-
lation). Norway had recently gained a new Heritage
Act—perhaps the strictest in the world (Myklebust, 2002), and
now the government agencies had to adapt. The final decision
on the future organization of the Norwegian cultural heritage
was later enshrined in an official White Paper in 1986 (MOTE,
What kind of documents are these, and what happened in
them? In this article, which is a processing of a previously pre-
pared thesis (Nielsen, 2011), the overall theme is what govern-
ance policy documents do. This theme will be illustrated
through a close reading of the two aforementioned governance
policy documents from the early phase of the re-organization of
the Norwegian CHM. The reading will involve analytical as-
pects from actor-network theory (ANT) and science-studies
(Latour, 1993, 2005; Callon, 2001; Asdal, 2008b, 2011b).
Political Documents as Information and Actor
As with all text, governance policy documents convey
meaning through opinions and speech acts; they store and
transmit information from source to reader. In this way, the
report from 1982 presents the case made by “the organization
committee”, while the White Paper from 1986 lays forth the
case made by the Government. However, in addition to being a
strict means of communication, the documents are also part of
S. V. NIELSEN
physical reality; they have their own materiality. According to
ANT, a focus on the materiality of things can help demonstrat-
ing that documents not only inform, but that in specific social
situations, they can become active, mediating parts in social life
(Latour, 2005). The documents can in a sense become the case
As the documents were published in the 1980’s, narrowing
an analysis of state affairs to a certain decade is nonetheless
problematic. The report from 1982 and the White Paper from
1986 were only the first steps in a process that ended in 2001
(NOU, 2002). According to the state’s own historiog- raphy,
the case was originally made by the White Paper (Niel- sen,
So what kind of text is this? When the Government or a min-
istry has the need to investigate different conditions in Norwe-
gian society, they set up a committee to produce a report on the
case (i.e. Norwegian Official Report). These reports are in-
tended to create and maintain a vibrant democracy, and a gov-
ernment report may in some cases lead to a larger political
process resulting in a White Paper. This was the case with NOU
(1982: p. 36) and White Paper No. 39. While the report pre-
sented views, arguments and votes from a group of experts,
bureaucrats and politicians, the White Paper presented the
Government’s own position in the case.
Why highlight precisely these texts? As mentioned earlier,
the White Paper came to play a central mediating role in the
post-war history of Norwegian CHM. According to later docu-
ments, the foundation for further development was laid here
(Nielsen, 2011). In accordance with ANT, where focus lays on
the actors, an analysis of recent development in the Norwegian
CHM must take into account the role of the White Paper.
However, as the conditions of the White Paper are to be found
in the earlier report, it follows that the two texts must be read in
close relation to one another.
But there is also another reason to pay close attention to the
documents. The practice of government, in the sense of Fou-
caults’ gouvernementalité, implies a use of specific technolo-
gies in order to incorporate scientific knowledge into the po-
litical field. The Norwegian Official Report and the process of
translation it becomes part of, can be considered one of these
political technologies (Asdal, 2011b).
Writing History (with-) in Politics
The post-war period in Norway is often divided into different
eras: the reconstruction, the golden 60’s, and the “green wave”
in the 70’s (Lange, 1997; Asdal, 2011b). The politics of the
1980’s and the so-called “modernization of government” in the
90’s are often analyzed in light of Neoliberal political influence
and the effects of New Public Management (NPM) (Øgard,
2003; Trygstad, 2004; Baldersheim & Rose, 2005; Brattli, 2006;
Hernes, 2007). Unlike various parts of the public sector, Nor-
wegian CHM was never privatized, and according to political
discourse privatization was never an alternative (Nielsen, 2011).
In 2013, the organizational pattern follows a centralized distri-
bution of power where the Directorate for Cultural Heritage
functions as the link between the Ministry and the regional
actors. Both the archaeological government museums and the
countries 19 County Councils have authority regulated in the
Heritage Act. The County Councils are responsible for registra-
tion of prehistoric monuments in areas where development
initiatives are engaged, while the museums excavate the sites, a
practice partly shared with NIKU (The Norwegian Institute for
Cultural Heritage Research).
The current system of CHM is a direct result of the process
initiated by NOU (1982: p. 36). But the State has not only
played a central part in the development of management; inter-
vention has also been made in the field of cultural heritage
research. In the late 1980’s, and as part of the re-organization,
the Ministry of the Environment created a distinction between
two types of heritage research. On the one hand was the cultural
historic (i.e. traditional archaeological research), and on the
other cultural heritage research (i.e. research on management
and politics) (Marstein, 1991; MOTE, 1993). The need for an
external institution with the prime responsibility for R & D
activities and cultural heritage research became one of the key
reasons for the creation of NIKU in 1994.
This digression from the main case is done merely to point
out how re-organizations are more than solutions to supposedly
technical problems. The re-organization of the Norwegian
CHM even changed the very definition of archaeological ac-
tivities in general. By following associations in the State’s own
documents, it is possible to demonstrate how the State itself is
not limited to one definite location. On the contrary; through a
combination of naming objects and creating technologies in
order to govern them, new areas of State intervention are de-
veloped (Asdal, 2008b).
The Practice of Texts
Within the field of interdisciplinary cultural research, the ap-
plication of ANT in environmental history has been termed a
“practical approach” (Asdal, 2008b, 2011b). Political science
has traditionally treated policy documents as the state’s official
communication (Svardal, 1992). Publication of documents is
meant to create and maintain a transparent society where all
members have access to political decision making. However,
these texts have also a technical side to them. In practice, they
are engaged in social networks where they—in addition to be-
ing a means of communication, act as full blown mediators in
policy making. The White Paper is an example of such a me-
diator in Norwegian politics; its role is to create policy, and as
such it is a political act in itself. With the White Paper, presen-
tation and re-presentation merge.
But the constructive relationship between people and things
work both ways. As objects determine our practice, our practice
determines the objects in the first place (Asdal, 2008b). With
the White Paper, a mandatory passage point is made, an actor
that no one can avoid dealing with when dealing with the case
(Latour, 1993; Brattli, 2006). When White Paper No. 39 was
published it declared that a re-organization was on its way, and
in that moment, the document was the re-organization.
What policy documents actually do is rarely asked within
cultural heritage research (but see Brattli, 2006). In Norway this
research is of fairly new date (Christensen, 2011: p. 14). On the
field of building protection, Hans Emil Lidén (Liden, 1992) has
still the only historical work (Christensen, 2011), while major
contributions on the protection of prehistoric monuments still
remains few in numbers (Trøim, 1992; Hygen, 1996; Brattli,
2006; Glørstad & Kallhovd, 2011). The field is characterized
by discursive divisions following disciplinary boarders; as ar-
chae ologists have maintained a focus on prehistoric (automati-
cally protected) monuments, art historians have in turn covered
the history relating to standing buildings and modernity
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 143
S. V. NIELSEN
(Hegardt, 1984; Christensen, 2011). In short, there seems to be
a discipline still short of discipline.
For several years now, science studies have made its definite
influence on the field of environmental history in Norway (As-
dal, 2003, 2008a, 2011a, 2011b). This research program is
based on the tradition following Michel Foucault and the ac-
tor-network theory of Bruno Latour where the prime goal is to
study environmental history as a continuous interaction of peo-
ple and things. Here, the status of actor can be associated with
all creatures, while the social is reserved merely for that which
binds the actors together (Latour, 2005). This allows for the
sociological study of what Latour has termed “the parliament of
things”, or as Foucault put it; “the complex of people and
things” (Foucault, 2002).
Latour famously stated in the Irreduction part of The Paste-
urizatin of France that nothing can be reduced to anything other
than itself (Latour, 1988). This means that in the study of an
object, an actor, or a case, that plays a role in a process of
translation, we cannot jump so easily from one social setting to
another without having accounted for potential transformations
that occurred along the way. Information is transformation,
Latour writes (Latour, 2005). In this way, ANT as an analytical
tool is an argument for description as well as reluctance to ex-
planation. The task of sociology is to provide a rigorous ac-
count of the specific situation, of the case.
What was the case in 1979, when “the organization commit-
tee” was formed? According to different versions of Norwegian
history, heritage protection was not part of the “green wave” in
1970’s, nor of the environmental movement of the 80’s (Lange,
1997; Furre, 1999). The political environmental case was re-
served for Nature, and so was the social movement concerned
for protecting it. Effectively, past conservation never received
the attention of environmentalism.
It should be added that cultural heritage protection has tra-
ditionally been—and still is, associated with the cultural sphere
of Norwegian society and politics. The ecological activism of
the 70’s equaled with major changes in the Norwegian cultural
policy. Deeply inspired by the new French cultural policy of the
1960’s, the old distinction between “high” and “low” culture
were now to be exceeded (Keller, 2006). Culture should be
enjoyable for all social strata, not just the upper class. The prac-
tical result was a clear focus on decentralization of political
decision making to the County Councils. Whether this region-
alization made any impact on the Norwegian CHM, the history
books avoid mentioning it (Lange, 1997; Benum, 1998).
To gain insight into the state of Norwegian CHM in 1979,
we must pay attention to the policy documents from the period.
In this respect, the work done by “the organization committee”
becomes a vital source of information. According to their report,
a general conflict between development and conservation
reigned in Norwegian society. The conflict had its origin in the
post-war era and had been growing consistently ever since,
while an additional deterioration had occurred with the new
cultural policy of the 1970’s; after the new Heritage act from
1978 cultural heritage was defined as all traces (sic) of human
activity. All monuments predating the Reformation (1537),
known or unknown, were now subject to automatic protection,
and as such, they had to be managed.
The condition of the system in 1979 was thus characterized
by a long-term problem. Now the Heritage Act had parted the
management in two. On the one hand, the State was required to
carry out registration of monuments in the context of rezoning
and development initiatives. And on the other, if the area in
question was to be exploited, the monuments had to be exca-
vated and conserved in a proper, scientific manner. Both tasks
belonged to the Ministry of the Environment, but the roles and
authorities in the practical administration were unclear. The
agencies needed structure and efficiency. However, this was not
a public issue, and the re-organization became a purely internal
affair. It remained a clear case for an expert committee.
By including experts from a specific scientific field in poli-
tical committees, these actors get to play a vital role in policy
making. Among the expert members of “the organization com-
mittee” were Stephan Tschudi-Madsen and Odmund Møllerup.
Tschudi-Madsen, an art historian by education, was head of
The Directorate for Cultural Heritage. Odmund Møllerup on the
other hand was a prominent archaeologist and director of one of
the five archaeological government museums. He had previ-
ously been a key player in the committee behind the revised
Heritage Act (Trøim, 1992).
Still the majority of the members were representatives of po-
litical institutions, including the Ministry of the Environment,
the county and the municipality. The committee’s chairman,
Yngvar Johnsen, was a representative of the Ministry, as was
the member Astrid Bonesmo. Bonesmo was an architect by
education and had her background as bureau chief in the Minis-
Into what political, social or scientific setting was the com-
mittee to inscribe their case? “There is an increasing pressure
on cultural heritage from development interests, while there
seems to be a growing interest in and appreciation for preserv-
ing precious memories about past life and culture” (NOU, 1982:
p. 36). This is stated in the introduction of the report as an ex-
cerpt from the resolution that had originally appointed the
committee. By linking the cultural heritage to both environ-
mental and cultural policies the case gained great political sig-
nificance, but as this was stated in the resolution, the Ministry
had already defined the case. The limits were set.
The main task of the committee was to report and vote on
future organization patterns for the district apparatus. The re-
sponsibility for registration of monuments entailed keeping
procedures with local authorities and developers. Should a
separate agency be in charge of this, or should both registration
and excavation be collected in a single unit? Polls showed that
the expert knowledge stood strong; the majority of the commit-
tee voted for placing all authority at the five archaeological
government museums. According to the majority, it was “im-
portant that management decisions have their basis in science”.
But the proposal did not go unchallenged. In what was
termed a “special statement”, the member Bonesmo voted sin-
gle-handedly for placing the registration practice at the County
Councils. This was justified because the model proposed by the
majority went against “common management practice” and
“the normal levels of state, county and municipality”. Accord-
ing to this member, it was only matter of time until authority
would be transferred to the County Councils.
It is obvious that the committee was split between different
interests. On the one side were defenders of the old organiza-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
S. V. NIELSEN
tion structure, where expert institutions maintained authority.
On the other was the Ministry defending the new policy with its
focus on decentralization. The conflict became crystallized
when the case of ministry linking was voted on. Though this
was not part of the original mandate, the majority saw this as
essential for an alternative future organization of the CHM.
Shockingly, the vote resulted in a majority to move the CHM
from the Ministry of the Environment to the Ministry of Cul-
ture and Science, where it originally had been located in fore-
front of the establishment of the Ministry of the Environment in
1972. In a quite literal sense, the majority associated CHM with
culture and cultural work, not with nature and environmental
Reading the report from 1982 we are witnessing a committee
taking a stand against the major policies of the time. The ma-
jority wanted to strengthen the position of the scientific institu-
tions and the traditional know-how gathered there, effectively
demonstrating a direct antipathy to both cultural policy (i.e.
decentralization of political decision making) and environ-
mental policy (i.e. decisions grounded in science, not develop-
ment interests). The White Paper from 1986 was prepared by
the Ministry of the Environment, and through this the govern-
ment made its decision in the case.
What happens in and with the White Paper? Compared to the
report, this document differs in both form and content. The
White Paper is much shorter and decisions are declared through
performative statements. The ministry link, which “the organi-
zation committee” had insisted on voting on, was not men-
tioned by the Government. Regarding the district apparatus, it
was stated that the only real candidate were the County Coun-
cils. Giving authority for both registration and excavation of
monuments to the archaeological government museums would
not fulfill “the objectives of a single and unified management
model”. On the contrary, the museums were to be “excused” for
purely administrative tasks, and should only be concerned with
traditional cultural historic research and scientific excavations
of endangered monuments.
The White Paper did not take into account the majority votes
in the older report. On the contrary, to justify its decisions the
document referred directly to the “special statement” made by
Bonesmo, but without mentioning that this member was herself
a bureau chief from the Ministry. Furthermore, we are informed
that a trial period with the County Council model had already
been implemented in 1983.
As already mentioned, the White Paper can be read as a pi-
votal point for post-war CHM in Norway. This document
marked the announcement of major changes to come, the first
being deployed in 1989 through a new regulation of the Heri-
tage Act (MOTE, 1989). This is also confirmed by the State’s
own historiography, where the White Paper is recognized as the
foundation of todays “modernized” CHM (NOU, 2002).
Controversy as Translation
How should we understand the process accounted for above?
According to Michael Callon (Callon, 2001) a process of trans-
lation consists of four different stages. The first stage is recog-
nized as a phase of questioning, where the actors involved at-
tempts to define the roles and identities of the others. The ques-
tioning is followed by an interesting, wherein the winning party
attempts to stabilize the new order of things. At the stage of
interesting, the modus operandi among the actors is anything
goes (Callon, 2001: p. 102).
Can the early phase of the re-organization be read as a scien-
tific controversy? By cutting the literary ties to the earlier report,
the Ministry succeeded in stabilizing the vision of the County
Council as district apparatus, a model it had itself proposed in
the first place through a “special statement”. By re-producing
the same history repeatedly in subsequent documents, it man-
aged to maintain its own interesting. A striking example of this
occurs in the Ministry’s action plan from 1992. While account-
ing for the history of the Norwegian CHM it is explicitly stated
that in respect to the political purpose of the action plan, the
report from 1982 had been subject to strict censorship (Nielsen,
But what about the scientific interests invested in “the orga-
nization committee”? It is a historical fact that that the origins
of the institutionalized protection of prehistoric monuments are
linked directly to persons with scientific interests, and that the
guard has since been sustained by institutions sharing similar
interests (Shetelig, 1944; Glørstad & Kallhovd, 2011). The
Ministry of the Environment took issue with this tradition in the
White Paper by stating that “… it is in line with current cultural
policy a national responsibility to protect cultural heritage.
However, there is generally no national interest associated with
removing them. For protection authorities and scientific inter-
ests, it is desirable that the source material remains intact in its
natural context” (MOTE, 1986: p. 19). By allowing itself to
speak on behalf of all the parties involved, including the sci-
ences, the Ministry could convince all readers that there was no
internal controversy. Apparently, both politicians and scientists
were unanimous in the case.
According to the model proposed by Callon (2001), a suc-
cessful interesting is followed by an enrollment, a phase of
theoretical planning. This institution building propagates phy-
sically at the moment the mobilization takes place (Brattli, 2006:
pp. 45-46). Following this, the new regulation of the Heritage
Act in 1989 can be read as an enrollment, while the practical
changes occurring the following year marked the final mobili-
The Role of Free Association
While the original resolution effectively reduced the problem
to a purely technical matter—as long as the right actors were
placed into the right order it was thought that the problem
would vanish, the reading of NOU (1982: p. 36) and White
Paper No. 39 showed that the changes would cause dire conse-
quences. The documents testified to a deeper issue; that the
various actors in the administrative apparatus ware not col-
As the split was evident in the report, it was subsequently
brought to discussion in the Recommendation to the White
Paper in 19871. According to the White Paper, the archaeologi-
cal government museums were to be put into a position ena-
bling them to pursue their research interests. As for their role in
the CHM, they were only to carry out excavations on the order
of the authorities. However, from academic hold such a distinc-
1The source here is Recommendation S.135 (1987-1988) by the Parliament
Municipal and Environmental Protection Committee. Through Recommen-
dations, the political parties highlight their position in a case put forward by
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 145
S. V. NIELSEN
tion was seen as “very problematic”. In the Recommendation, it
was also pointed out that the Ministry of the Environment had
in fact ignored the earlier majority vote against the County
Council model, and had effectively acted against the vibrant
This attempt at questioning in the Recommendation was
nonetheless unsuccessful. How did the Ministry get approval of
their politics? Here we need to take a step back in the above
story, and go outside the network of associations the State itself
conveyed. This analytical “going outside” is what Callon has
termed free association (Callon, 2001).
One missing document in the process is an older report called
NOU (1977: p. 50). Published by the Ministry of the Environ-
ment, there is no mentioning of this text in the whole process of
the re-organization (but see Hygen, 1996).
The committee behind NOU (1977: p. 50) had been ap-
pointed by the Ministry, but as the report was not meant to lead
to a political process it served solely an internal purpose. Its
chairman was Astrid Bonesmo, later to be recognized as part of
“the organization committee” and the one member who was
cited in White Paper No. 39 favoring the County Council model.
The primary task of NOU (1977: p. 50) was to report on the
possible impacts of the new Heritage Act once it had been im-
plemented, with a special focus on future organizational
changes. As the committee agreed that authority eventually had
to be transferred to the County Councils, this report demon-
strates how the organizational model had in fact circulated
within the Ministry for over a decade before the publication of
the White Paper in 1986.
A Growing Controversy
It becomes clear then, that this decisive period of post-war
CHM in Norway was in fact characterized by more than an
increasing loss of monuments. It is significant that up until the
revised Heritage Act of 1978, systemic problems had been tak-
ing care of solely by internal commissions, all of which were
products of expert knowledge systems (i.e. archaeologists and
their institutions) used to handling problems in their own fash-
ion (Trøim, 1992). The re-organization shook this old network,
and thus the re-organization was not purely a solution; it was
also a destructive act.
Of this controversial process several different readings are
possible. According to art historian Arne Lie Christensen, the
transmission of the CHM to the Ministry of the Environment in
1973 happened originally as a result of the “new thinking” in
Norwegian environmental policy (Christensen, 2011: p. 137).
Further, when the County Councils were later to be mobilized,
it was only because this vision “won” (Ibid). Evidently, inter-
preting political history as a continuing flow of change and
effectively avoiding mentioning internal controversies is possi-
ble. But is this a reading that takes into account the particular
by the case itself, or even acknowledges the case as such?
To presuppose a social substance that has the potential to ex-
p lain everything is, following Latour, the greatest fault in soci-
ology (Latour, 2005: p. 144). Through practical examples, sci-
ence studies have demonstrated how history is not linear, but
rather full of uncertainty and controversy (Shapin & Schaffer,
1985). Following this field, a close reading of the central gov-
ernment policy documents from the re-organization of the
Norwegian CHM could show that this was exactly the case.
From an academic hold, the deprival of authority from ar-
chaeological government museums in 1990 has been inter-
preted as an historic milestone for the bureaucratic powers that
affect Norwegian archaeology, transforming the CHM into a
political field (Boaz, 1998; Keller, 1999). Consequently, central
in the academic discourse has been a hermeneutic of suspicion
aiming at identifying the suspects (Nielsen, 2011).
In light of this discourse, the White Paper from 1986 can be
read as a turning point not only for the CHM, but also for the
field of archaeology in Norway. One could say that the re-or-
ganization changed archaeology’s most basic conditions for
production (Keller, 2006).
The academic community became critical to the development
that started with “the organization committee”. But was the
criticism unjustified? Within political science, the 1970’s are
often characterized by the Labor Party losing its post-war
dominant position (Pettersen, 2009). Significantly, this rupture
is tangent with two phenomena; the increasing use of public
committees in policy making, and the final breakthrough for
lobbying within Norwegian politics (Pettersen, 2009, with ref-
erence to Espeli, 1999: p. 169). The reading of the central docu-
ments from the re-organization of the CHM is consistent with
this panorama; the organizational model was planned by the
Ministry of the Environment and all subsequent disagreements
were discarded. It was even possible to identify central actors in
However, while it remains significant that the scientific ex-
pert systems failed in their attempt at defining the case, should
this historical fact in itself be considered controversial?
Through case studies, science studies have demonstrated that
this is more the rule then the exception. As it happens, scientific
knowledge quite often do not determine policy making (Asdal,
2011b: p. 237). While scientific knowledge is often involved
through representatives in committees, there is always a process
of translation. As this analysis could show, the basis for the
re-organization was visions and ideas, not scientific knowledge.
Political Ecology and CHM
Within ANT and the discourse on modernity, Latour highly-
ghts political ecology as the only real alternative to moderniza-
tion (Latour, 1998, 1993, 2004). His analysis points out that
ecology, as far as being a political rationale, has effectively
been reserved as a normalizing project (Latour, 1998). Just as
the 19th century never saw a “hygienist party”, there will never
be a “cultural heritage party” in 21st century. Following Rich-
ard Bradley’s take on British CHM, the reason for this is simple;
cultural heritage is not attractive for real-politik (Bradley, 2006),
and when there is no voting, there will be no new policy.
Later policy documents from the 1990’s show that the
re-organization of the Norwegian CHM eventually came to be
understood as part of the larger government project called
“modernization of public sector” (Nielsen, 2011). Restructuring
became a key technology in this project, and it is estimated that
in the period of 1985-1995, more than 900 re-organizations
were mentioned in state budgets (Riksrevisjonen, 2005). And
the trend only increased the following decayed. Again, the
Ministry’s identification of the re-organization with the “mod-
ernization” project must be read as part of a continuing inter-
esting. By increasing the associations connected to the re-orga-
nization, the phenomenon in itself became bigger, more social
—more real. Though the origin of the process was found to be
in the 1970’s, according to the State’s own historiography the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
S. V. NIELSEN
re-organization became increasingly understood as a footnote to
the major government restructuring of the 90’s. As such, the
re-organization can be associated with the early phase of NPM
influence in the Norwegian public sector, but as the analysis
here have shown, in anything the influence was nothing but
Down to this point, this analysis has demonstrated how the
re-organization of the Norwegian CHM has been considered an
adverse event—even a symptom of a larger destructive process.
But can we make yet another reading here? Following the
re-organization, it has been said that Norway’s protective sys-
tem is among the strictest and most successful (Myklebust,
2002). The old problems have been resolved, and as such, the
re-organization can also be read as a constructive process.
Something was made through the re-organization. How can this
be related to Latour’s take on political ecology? In his book
Politics of Nature (Latour, 2004), Latour notes the following:
“It was thought that political ecology had to bring hu-
mans and non-humans together, whereas it actually had
to bring together the scientific and the political ways of
intermingling humans and nonhumans. There is indeed a
division of labor, but there is not a division of the collec-
tive” (Latour, 2004: p. 148).
A bringing together of scientific and political practice—is
this not exactly what the above analysis could demonstrate
happened to the Norwegian CHM in the period from 1979 to
2001? In a quite literal sense, the re-organization moved the
monuments—i.e. the non-human social actors, away from the
expert institutions and into the local democracy of the County
Councils. Connections were cut, new was made. The monu-
ments became an integral part of land use planning in the mu-
nicipalities, and of society, in a whole new way. And this hap-
pened not in spite of expert knowledge; following the regula-
tion of the Heritage Act in 1989, archaeologists were now dis-
tributed to counties across the country, increasing the degree of
According to Latour, political ecology as realpolitik imposes
a re-organization of the sciences involved in political policy
making. Science should be democratized, not hidden away in
expert knowledge systems. Latour’s definition of political
ecology must of course be read as a part of his work within the
discourse on ANT. It is therefore significant that only an analy-
sis in accordance with this can successfully capture the differ-
ent forms “ecologizing” can take in practical policy making.
Perhaps the growing academic controversy tangent with the
re-organization can be read not as sign of its failure but, on the
contrary, as an argument for its success?
As the environmental historian Kristin Asdal writes, go-
vernance documents are linked to a political machinery that
helps the texts to reach far and wide (Asdal, 2008b). This arti-
cle has made an attempt at demonstrating how a “practical ap-
proach” can enlighten the relation between science and politics
in CHM through studies of organizational change. A close
reading of these mediating texts can demonstrate how they
enact out, how they both inform and transform the specific case.
Taking these documents seriously can lead to the creation of
new and unknown histories.
In contrast to earlier interpretations, it has been argued here
that uncertainty and controversy played a major role in
re-organizing the Norwegian CHM in the 1980- and 90’s. I
have pointed out that the process was both constructive and
destructive; destructive because it dramatically changed the
nature of the scientific expert systems, and constructive because
it led to the functional and aggressive system that was origi-
nally intended in 1979. It has also been argued that the democ-
ratization and regionalization of authority to the County Coun-
cils in 1990 was an event corresponding positively with La-
tours’ theory of “ecologizing” politics. Regionalization brought
the representatives of protected things closer to local political
decision making, distributing the uncertainty and caution asso-
ciated with prehistoric monuments as far as possible. One could
say that the Norwegian CHM went one step further into be-
coming “a collective experimentation on the possible associa-
tion between things and people” (Latour, 1998: p. 21).
It must be mentioned that the core point in Latour’s theory of
modernity rests on the now infamous premise that “we have
never been modern” (Latour, 1993). By deploying a specific
practice of translation—sorting things in accordance with a
nature-culture duality, we have told ourselves that we are mod-
ern. Latour’s solution is in this respect simple; we must start by
sorting things differently. But how could past conservation ever
fit into this rationale in the first place? If anything, prehistoric
monuments in themselves embody the modernist duality of
nature and culture, and as such, they remain a potential anom-
aly in the rationale. It is precisely here, in this conceptual abyss,
that studies of CHM have the great potential to demonstrate
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