World Heritage as a Subject of Rights: A Hohfeldian Analysis of Old Rauma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The world’s cultural heritage is vulnerable to numerous types of risks, ranging from climate crisis to pandemics and wars. In the face of both current and future threats, states have the power to choose which cultural items should be conserved and which can be allowed to be destroyed. Consequently, there are legal provisions in place to safeguard the chosen pieces of cultural heritage as World Heritage for future generations. This article explores the essence of World Heritage as a legal phenomenon within the body of international cultural heritage law, applying a human rights perspective and taking in distinctive features of Nordic law. Using the framework developed by Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld, the article outlines theoretical guidelines for locating and examining World-Heritage-related legal relations. This theoretical Hohfeldian approach is combined with practical examples from the Finnish World Heritage Site of Old Rauma, among others. The article argues that World Heritage is currently threatened for reasons typical of capital-centric society. The related threats are not adequately recognized, nor are they appropriately addressed by either state authorities or the law. To prevent conflicts from arising in relation to the safeguarding of World Heritage, this article emphasizes the importance of fostering resilience through elastic legal mechanisms, as exemplified by the Nordic right to roam.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761–778
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cultural heritage law
  • human rights
  • legal theory
  • Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld
  • World Heritage

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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