Coventry University | Harriet Deacon

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Harriet Deacon

Visiting Fellow

My Research Vision

My research is based on a commitment to social justice and the importance of connecting academic work to real-world challenges and opportunities in the field of cultural heritage management. My current interests lie in exploring the link between intangible heritage safeguarding and intellectual property protection, with a particular focus on foodways as heritage. I am also interested in the development and implementation of national legislation for the protection of community rights in intangible heritage as traditional knowledge, especially in Africa.


Harriet Deacon trained in history and anthropology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has a PhD in History (Cambridge, 1994) and a MSc in Management of Intellectual Property Law (Queen Mary University of London, 2016). Apart from intangible heritage, her research has focused on topics such as cultural heritage and law in Kenya, the history of medical institutions, and HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in southern Africa. She has worked as research coordinator at a World Heritage Site - Robben Island Museum - and was the founding Director of an archives and heritage NGO (The Archival Platform) in South Africa. 

Since 2010, she has consulted to UNESCO on the global capacity building programme for implementing the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and on developing a Results Map for evaluating the implementation of the Convention. She has facilitated workshops in over 15 countries and worked on the preparation of training materials that have been used for the UNESCO programme worldwide. 

She coordinates the academic network on Intangible Heritage for the Association for Critical Heritage Studies, which has over 1000 members and a committee of 25 people. With Charlotte Waelde and Patricia Covarrubia, she helps to coordinate a new academic network which brings together academics and policymakers working on intellectual property and intangible heritage. She is currently acting as special adviser on ICH to the UK’s Heritage Crafts Association, a NGO accredited under the Convention. She has acted as a reviewer for a number of journals including International Journal of Heritage Studies; Journal of African History, and Aids and Behavior. She has served on the boards of professional bodies such as the Society for the Social History of Medicine, on the Editorial Board of Social History of Medicine (2006-2008).

Selected Outputs

  • H.J. Deacon, ‘Understanding the work that ‘culture’ does: a comparative perspective on cultural rights provisions in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010’. Forthcoming, African Studies.
  • H.J. Deacon, ‘Safeguarding traditional foodways in the EU: the traditional specialties guaranteed scheme’. Forthcoming in C. Bortolotto and B. Ubertazzi (eds), International Journal of Cultural Property.
  • H.J. Deacon and R. Smeets, ‘Intangible heritage safeguarding and intellectual property protection in the context of implementing the UNESCO ICH Convention’. Forthcoming, L.J. Smith and N. Akagawa (eds) Intangible Heritage, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge).
  • H.J. Deacon, 2017. ‘Transboundary knowledge and regional cooperation in the protection of Traditional Knowledge in Kenya’, Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice.
  • R. Smeets and H.J. Deacon, 2017. ‘The examination of nomination files under the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage’, in Michelle L. Stefano and Peter Davis (eds) The Routledge Companion to Intangible Heritage (London: Routledge).
  • H.J. Deacon, 2016. A comparative review of cultural rights provisions in the Kenyan Constitution (Milton Keynes: The Open University), desk study report.
  • H.J. Deacon and R. Smeets, 2013. ‘Authenticity, Value and Community Involvement in Heritage Management under the World Heritage and Intangible Heritage Conventions’, Heritage and Society 6(2), pp.1–15.

Selected Projects

  • A history of Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town: Funded by a Wellcome Trust International Collaborative Award, led by Anne Digby and Howard Phillips, this Oxford Brookes-University of Cape Town project on the history of Groote Schuur Hospital resulted in a book, At the Heart of Healing in Cape Town: Groote Schuur Hospital, 1938-2008 (Johannesburg, Jacana 2008).
Research breakout image

Visiting Fellow