Dr Helle Jørgensen

Dr Helle Jørgensen

Department of History
Lecturer in Cultural Heritage Studies

Contact details

JG Smith Building, office 217
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

An anthropologist by education, I enjoy doing interdisciplinary research. My main interest is the production of heritage in post/colonial contexts and the associated politics of history, social memory and development, including local as well as transnational relations and practices, from heritage management to tourism and the social lives of the people living near designated heritage sites.


  • PhD - Department of History and Area Studies, Aarhus University (2010)
  • Master of Anthropology - Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen (2005)


Cultural heritage has been an enduring interest in my work, which has involved university-based research as well as applied work in the museum sector. My experience after completing my MA in anthropology in 2005 includes a range of project employments with an emphasis on cultural history, where amongst other things I have worked as a curator in a Danish museum, the Museum of Møn.

In 2007-2010 I carried out my PhD project, which investigated the contemporary cross-cultural heritage development in Tranquebar, a former Danish trading colony in South India which has been declared a heritage town by Indian authorities, based on the townscape and buildings which were constructed in the period of Danish rule from 1620 to 1845, after which Tranquebar was sold to the British. My project was part of the Tranquebar Initiative, an interdisciplinary research initiative housed at the National Museum of Denmark, focusing on past and present cultural encounters associated with Tranquebar.

My applied research also includes work as a research assistant at the Center of Museology, Aarhus University. Here, one of my key tasks was to carry out a qualitative research project on barriers and potential for museum use amongst young people in Denmark on behalf of the National Cultural Heritage Agency in 2011.

After completing my PhD project I have continued to be involved in a range of projects related to heritage and colonial history in and around Tranquebar, such as book publications and dissemination on the web, for the National Museum of Denmark as well as in other contexts. My work on behalf of the National Museum of Denmark has also included writing a report with recommendations on the development of heritage and tourism in Tranquebar for the Ministry of Tourism in Tamil Nadu.

My current research is also focused on colonial heritage in India, where I have branched out to investigate the management and representation of the much more recent legacy of India’s colonial relations with France, which ceded its Indian territories de facto in 1954; and de jure only in 1962.

Prior to joining the University of Birmingham I taught across a range of disciplines in Danish universities, including anthropology, history, museology, comparative cultural studies and regional studies (South Asian and European).


Undergraduate modules:

  • Practising history

Postgraduate modules:

  • Critical Approaches to Cultural Heritage
  • Heritage Interpretation
  • Research Methods and Skills
  • Issues in World Heritage
  • World Heritage Case Study
  • Tourism Management at World Heritage Sites

Postgraduate supervision

Completed PhD projects:
• Thi Quynh Ngoc Bui: Accommodating Traditions of Hospitality in a Tourist Region: the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
• Malgorzata Trelka: “When the Heritage Came”: World Heritage and local communities through the prism of Ironbridge Gorge
• Coralie Rachel Acheson: Visiting the Industrial Revolution: The Communication of World Heritage Values to Tourists in Ironbridge Gorge
• Aidatul Fadzlin Binti Bakri: Negotiating Identities and ‘Sense of Place’ in a World Heritage City: The Case of George Town, Penang, Malaysia
• Richard Bigambo: Safeguarding Practices for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Tanzania: National vs Local Perspectives
• Hee Joo Kim: Urban Heritage Production in South Korea: A Tale of Two Cities
• Arooj Al Rae: Displaying the Nation: The Role of Museums in the Expression of National Identity in the Sultanate of Oman
• Predencia Dixon: Death of the Nine-Night: Jamaican Heritage and Identity Crisis in Response to Changing Death Rituals
• Ismail Elnour: Local Community Intangible Cultural Heritage Associated with Gebel Elbarkal and Napatan Region Archaeological Sites: Values, Identity, and Ownership Claims

Current supervision:
• Abdirahman Nuur Mahamed: Heritage Tourism Development in Post-conflict Somaliland: The Politics of Stakeholders in Heritage Tourism and Nation Building in a Country Without International Recognition
• Ximena Lecaros Vial: The home as a locus of identity, heritage and memory of migrant communities in Chile
• Lingjun Li: The Impact of Covid-19 on Independent Museums in the UK
• Xinbei Wang: Architecture, Quasi-Colonialism and Politics: A Micro-History of the British Consulate in Wen-Chow
• Michael Allen: Dissonant Valuation: The Heritage of Modernist Mass Housing in the United States
• Albert Kirchner: Many Nights in the Following Sun: Interpretations of the British Government House in Barrackpore, Calcutta, 1870-1925
• Ziyuan Cai: Community engagement at Chinese museums
• Lorna Keathley: Cades Cove 360-degree Inclusive and Accessible Virtual Tour Project

Find out more - our PhD Cultural Heritage  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


While I have done research focusing on national or more local contexts, notably concerning heritage and museology in Denmark, I have a particular interest in investigating the production of heritage in cross-cultural and transnational contexts, especially within the framework of post/colonial relations, with the particular tensions which these relations often imply. My earliest work in this field focused on the repatriation of human remains from ethnographic museums to indigenous people in New Zealand. I also have fieldwork experience from India. Here I have investigated the development of the former trading colony Tranquebar as a heritage town and a destination of heritage tourism, both as seen against decades of development plans and in the particular context of responses to the disastrous tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean in 2004. My current research also revolves around colonial and postcolonial relations in India. I am doing research both in the Union State Territory of Puducherry (the former French India) in Southern India, and in the former European settlements along the Hughli River in West Bengal in Northern India. In Puducherry I am investigating the present representations of French-Indian colonial connections and the associated postcolonial imaginaries and understandings of independence, as well as the management of heritage and tourism in the capital city’s  contemporary process of urban development pressures. In West Bengal I am involved in a collective interdisciplinary project focused on heritage along the Hughli River corridor, called the Hughli River of Cultures project, for which see this link: https://www.archiam.co.uk/the-hugli-river-of-cultures-pilot-project-from-bandel-to-barrackpore/

My research interests are oriented towards identity politics, social memory and perceptions of historicity, and not least towards the encounters and clashes between different concepts and practices related to understandings of heritage and its meaning in the present. This includes negotiations between different agents and their interests in producing and using heritage, for instance in the context of economic development and urbanisation. I am interested in a wide range of practices and the interplays between them, from professional heritage management and research to tourism and everyday uses of sites, objects and phenomena claimed as heritage.

Other activities

External examining:

  • External examiner, University of Wales Trinity Saint David Prof Doc Heritage, MRes Heritage, MA / Pg Dip / Pg Cert Heritage
  • Anthropology at University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University, BA and MA level
  • Minority Studies and Comparative Cultural Studies at University of Copenhagen, and the Cultural and Language Encounters Study Programme at Roskilde University, MA level
  • External examiner for various PhD projects 

Peer reviews done for the following journals:

  • Heritage and Society
  • International Journal of Heritage Studies
  • Annals of Tourism Research
  • Hospitality and Society
  • Tourist Studies
  • Journal of Material Culture
  • Archaeologies
  • The Historic Environment: Policy and Practice
  • History and Anthropology
  • Review of Development and Change
  • Tidsskriftet Antropologi (Danish: Journal of Anthropology)
  • Slagmark – Tidsskrift for idehistorie (Danish journal: Battlefield – Journal for the History of Ideas)
  • Nordisk Museologi (Scandinavian journal: Nordic Museology).

I have also acted as book proposal reviewer for Rowman and Littlefield International.

Administrative roles:

Committee work for the School of History and Cultures:

  • Member of the Equality and Diversity Committee

Assessment of research applications:

  • I am registered on the experts database of the European Commission Research Executive Agency and have participated as expert evaluator in assessments of applications for Horizon2020 funding
  • I am a member of the Academic and International Group in the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK Peer Review College
  • In 2015 I served as grant application reviewer for the Marsden Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand


Recent publications


Jørgensen, H 2023, 'Performing Independence in Puducherry: Commemorative Public Holidays and Postcolonial Imaginaries in the Former French India', The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. https://doi.org/10.1080/03086534.2023.2196836

Jørgensen, H 2022, '‘Out through the door and in through the window?’: positioning colonial nostalgia for French India in Puducherry', International Journal of Francophone Studies, vol. 25, no. 1-2, pp. 59-92. https://doi.org/10.1386/ijfs_00045_1

Jørgensen, H 2021, 'A post/colonial lieu de mémoire in India: commemorative practices surrounding Puducherry’s French war memorial', History & Memory, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 34-72. https://doi.org/10.2979/histmemo.33.1.03

Jørgensen, H 2019, 'Postcolonial perspectives on colonial heritage tourism: The domestic tourist consumption of French heritage in Puducherry, India', Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 77, pp. 117-127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2019.05.001

Jørgensen, H 2018, 'Between marginality and universality: present tensions and paradoxes in French colonial cultural heritage, civilizing mission, and citizenship in Puducherry, India', Heritage and Society, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 45-67. https://doi.org/10.1080/2159032X.2018.1457299


Jørgensen, H 2022, Puducherry as palimpsest: post/colonial memories of Indo-French engagements and legacies in the urban landscape. in N Das & S Chaudhuri (eds), Four Cities: Points of Encounter between India and Europe. Jadavpur University Press, Kolkata.

Jørgensen, H 2017, Caste Conflicts in Tranquebar: A Clash Between New and Old Elites. in E Fihl (ed.), The Governor’s Residence in Tranquebar: The House and the Daily Life of its People, 1170-1845. Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen, pp. 57-58.

Jørgensen, H 2017, Catherine Worlée: The Princess from Tranquebar. in E Fihl (ed.), The Governor’s Residence in Tranquebar: The House and the Daily Life of its People, 1170-1845. Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen, pp. 20-21.

Jørgensen, H 2017, Challenges in preserving and presenting colonial French heritage in India: the case of Puducherry. in JR dos Santos (ed.), Preserving Transcultural Heritage: My Way or Your Way?: Questions on Authenticity, Identity and Patrimonial Proceedings in the Safeguarding of Architectural Heritage Created in the Meeting of Cultures. Caleidoscopio, Casal de Cambra, pp. 235-242, Preserving Transcultural Heritage, Lisbon, Portugal, 5/07/17.

Jørgensen, H 2017, Dansk-indiske forbindelser efter 1845. in N Brimnes (ed.), Indien: Tranquebar, Serampore og Nicobarerne . Gads Forlag, Copenhagen, pp. 358-387.

Book/Film/Article review

Jørgensen, H 2017, 'Danmarks postkoloniale arv', Slagmark: Tidsskrift for Idehistorie, vol. 75, pp. 178-181 . <http://www.slagmark.dk/anm-koloni>

Conference article

Bakri, AF, Samadi, Z, Robinson, M & Jørgensen, H 2021, 'The role of ‘sense of place’ in the revitalisation of heritage street: George Town, Penang, Malaysia', Environment-Behaviour Proceedings Journal, vol. 6, no. 18, pp. 305-312. https://doi.org/10.21834/ebpj.v6i18.3080

Other contribution

Jørgensen, H 2023, UNESCO. Lex.dk. <https://denstoredanske.lex.dk/UNESCO>

Jørgensen, H 2023, UNESCO's Verdensarvskonvention. Lex.dk. <https://denstoredanske.lex.dk/UNESCO's_Verdensarvskonvention>

Jørgensen, H 2021, Reengagements with built colonial heritage in India, perceived from French and Danish margins. Colonial Architecture Project. <https://www.colonialarchitectureproject.org/index?/page/perspectives_on_architectural_preservation_part_two>

View all publications in research portal



  • Development policy
  • Tourism policy
  • Legacy of empire
  • Museums 
  • Heritage and conservation