EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P076)
Empowering the silenced memories: grassroots practices in urban revitalization politics
Location U6-41
Date and Start Time 20 July, 2016 at 14:30
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Katja Hrobat Virloget (University of Primorska) email
  • Saša Poljak Istenič (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU)) email
  • Michèle Baussant (CNRS, LABEX Pasts in the Presents (UPO)) email

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Short Abstract

We focus on abandoned urban places where the memories of marginal groups who identify with them remain mute due to the change of power relations. Is it possible to influence the revival of urban spaces by giving them the power to speak and by bringing together different memories on local heritage?

Long Abstract

Due to populations' transfers the countries of Eastern and Central Europe after WW II have been transformed on the principle of ethnic homogeneity. The groups which did not identify with the new nation/political system had to leave or became marginalized. A similar marginalization in former socialist European states was experienced half of the century later with the democratisation and the independence processes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since then urban centres have been facing a decentralisation and disintegration, a loss of central social functions, migration of population, disappearance or transformation of public spaces, and consequently of the city bustle. Socialist heritage, especially the former barracks, industrial plants, once a symbol of progress and working class have been left to decay. Among the most frequent reasons that such places stay empty is the fact that local population does not identify with them, as only those who are usually part of the minority and as a rule marginalised together with their memories, perceive them as heritage.

The panel invites discussion on abandoned urban places (centres, quarters, brownfields etc.) where the presence of its former inhabitants cannot be directly perceived since their heritage is silenced within the hegemonic heritage discourse and subject to the processes of (non)heritagisation. We especially encourage presentation of practices where marginal groups gained power to be heard and, by bringing together different population groups with diverse memories and understandings of local heritage, succeeded to influence the revival of urban spaces.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"إسكندرية.. كعب داير" :Autour d'Alexandrie, les juifs et les minorités égyptianisées

Author: Michèle Baussant (CNRS, LABEX Pasts in the Presents (UPO))  email

Short Abstract

Cette communication interroge les mémoires de la présence/absence juive et des différentes communautés à Alexandrie aujourd’hui, à travers notamment les voyages de retour des Juifs en Egypte et des tentatives de préservation du patrimoine in situ des associations juives égyptiennes installées en France.

Long Abstract

Dans la seconde moitié du 20ème siècle, de nombreuses communautés juives du Moyen-Orient et du Maghreb ont quitté ou été expulsées des pays où certaines étaient implantées depuis plusieurs siècles. En Egypte, en l'espace de deux décennies, c'est la majorité des populations dites étrangères, mutamassirûn (égyptianisées), inscrites dans une constellation de structures communautaires à la fois locales et cosmopolites qui quittent le pays.

Diverses, ces populations le sont par leurs nationalités, lesquelles sont parfois assimilées à une religion, bien que leurs membres puissent être définis aussi comme des sujets locaux. C'est le cas en particulier des communautés juives, population dont la composition s'avère extrêmement hétérogène. Le sort de cette population illustre les trajectoires des migrants étrangers ou internes, issus des provinces de l'Empire ottoman. Mais il s'en distingue aussi, notamment dans l'association des juifs, dans les représentations, à Israël.

Cette communication interroge les mémoires de la présence/absence juive et des différentes communautés à Alexandrie aujourd'hui, à travers notamment les voyages de retour des Juifs en Egypte et des tentatives de préservation du patrimoine in situ des associations juives égyptiennes installées en France. Il s'intéresse également aux discours en Egypte autour du passé juif et « cosmopolite ». Se donnent à voir des formes distinctes de nostalgie du passé, concentrées souvent autour de traces communes: témoignages d'une histoire, d'un temps et d'un espace qui n'existent plus d'un côté, éléments de contestation du présent et des autorités politiques de l'autre…

Jewish heritage in Birobidzhan (Russia) as a subject of commemoration and comodification

Author: Agata Maksimowska (University of Warsaw)  email

Short Abstract

This paper addresses the dynamics of (re)discovering the local heritage of the Jewish Autonomous Region of Russia. Despite the emigration of majority of Jews to Israel after 1991, Jewish heritage remains locally important in the commemorative as well as commercial discourses and practices.

Long Abstract

The Jewish Autonomous Region created in 1934 as the "Soviet Jewish homeland" did not differ from other places in the USSR in reference to the Jews. While the regime promoted internationalism, official anti-Semitism nevertheless limited Jewish cultural, linguistic and religious expression. In the wake of the economic collapse after Perestroika 70% percent of the Jewish population emigrated to Israel and Germany.

Nevertheless, the region's Jewish heritage is increasingly popular. Two narratives are particularly prevalent. The first showcases secular Jewish culture and heritage of the Yiddish language as unique to the "Birobidzhan project". It stresses the need to commemorate an almost forgotten heritage. The latter narrative exploits local heritage as a commodity to attract capital investors. Jewishness is used in this case as a marketing strategy that incorporates propaganda methods rooted in the practice of the former Soviet houses of culture.

Newly rediscovered Jewish idiom engenders cultural meaning. Commemoration allows for embracing difficult history, it also helps Jews to feel comfortable with their own identity and express what the previous generation silenced due to trauma.

Jewish heritage as commodity directed towards outsiders, meanwhile, is deliberately devoid of its content - what is commodified is the form itself. It also gains support from the state authorities - they tend to prefer "empty signifiers" as they suit current homogenizing politics in Russia in which local cultural strategies with emancipatory potential are being reduced to the pop-culture.

Cultural and urban landscape as a symbol of identity in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Author: Tonka Maric (University of Granada)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper we attempt to analyse different perceptions of symbolic and emotional meanings in cultural heritage of Bosnian-Herzegovinian society after the last war (1992-1995), as well as its social and cultural connotations.

Long Abstract

The last president of the former Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic once said "Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small Yugoslavia". Does Bosnia and Herzegovina await for the same destiny as Yugoslavia?

Historically, Yugoslavia ceased to exist after a horrible fratricidal war in the '90s. The consequences of that conflict were death, violent migration, destruction of infrastructure and cultural and urban genocide. Systematic destruction of the cultural heritage had intended to modify and alienate the symbols of the history that were no longer considered part of the collective memory of any of three dominant ethnicities (Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims) and in such a way create new past, present, and future including new and imposed ethnic identities. Thus, destruction of material evidences may be considered as a first step towards the shift in the memory of future generations.

In this paper we attempt to analyse cultural and urban landscape of Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the post-war period. In a society divided as the Bosnian-Herzegovinian one, it becomes imperative to analyse different perceptions of symbolic meanings of cultural heritage with the intent to comprehend the reasons of division, as well as its social and cultural connotations.

Between mute memories and "rootless" majority: urban heritage after population transfers on the Slovenian Mediterranean coast

Author: Katja Hrobat Virloget (University of Primorska)  email

Short Abstract

The paper analyses the reasons for the decay of urban heritage of coastal towns of Slovenia, ex-Yugoslavia, where the population has almost entirely changed after WWII due to population transfers. The decaying of heritage is ascribed to mute memories of the minority and “rootless” majority.

Long Abstract

When Yugoslavia gained the nationally mixed territory of Istria after WWII 90% of mainly Italian-speaking population emigrated, while the "ghost" towns were settled by people from Slovenia and ex-Yugoslavia. Today, the majority of population, encompassing the newcomers have barely any memories or emotional link to the places they inhabit and they live in them with feelings of rootlessness. As the majority, belonging to the dominant Slovenian national identity, these inhabitants do not identify with the local heritage which is often left to decay. A great part of the population in the historic centres derives from totally different environments and thence have hardly adapted to the Mediterranean way of living. Moreover, after the Slovenian independence the people originating from other Yugoslav republics became second class citizen, marginalised with their memories.

These cities are perceived as heritage mostly by the Italian-speaking inhabitants who remained - despite the new dominant national identity - so to become a (officially recognized) Italian minority. In the dominant Yugoslav memory they were marked by collective guilt for war crimes and as such marginalized with their memories and heritage silenced. In their former home environment, which became foreign to them due to the changed social-political circumstances, their "spatialized" memory is wounded with the many interventions in the historic built environment.

The presentation will be part of a self-critical ethnological analysis of a nation's (intentionally) ignored past focusing on the "rootless" or/and marginalised inhabitants with their "wounds" remaining in the form of places left to decay.

Re-visiting history, re-discovering places: historicity and (de)marginalization in the Eastern Adriatic

Author: Jelena Tosic (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper provides an ethnographic account of how a particular emic mode of narrating and 'placing' urban history figures within the ongoing minority struggle against its marginalization by the state.

Long Abstract

Miguel Cervantes, Sabbatai Zevi, German tourists and Josip Broz Tito do have something in common. As "grand visitors" they represent nodal points within a prominent emic narrative of the history of Ulqin/Ulcinj - the Montenegrin most southern and recent harbour (1878) with the Albanian (Muslim) minority representing more than 70% of the population.

By exploring the stories and places of the "grand visits" the paper shows how historicity - as "an ongoing production of pasts and futures" (Hirsch and Stewart 2005) - figures within the contemporary struggle of Ulqin's/Ulcinj's inhabitants against the marginalization by the state. The figures of the "grand visitors" and the re-discovered places associated with them - each in its particular way - enable a narrative "up-scaling" and revaluation of the marginal position Ulcinj embodies both in the Ottoman and the present-day Montenegrin context. Abandoned hotels, a hidden saint's tomb (turbe) and a stone in the Old Town - at first site radically different places - all represent traces of "a moving history" and as such are central to local debates, story-telling and heritage initiatives. Apart from opposing a common orientalization/balkanization of Ulqin/Ulcinj and it populationas "non-modern" and "backward", the place-making narrative of "grand visits" is a crucial component of the local struggle of the Albanian minority for (re)claiming Ulqin's/Ulcinj's image not only as the hub of Montenegrin tourism, but moreover as a locus of cosmopolitanism, 'centrality' and connectedness.

Unmarked graves as memory sites of the Spanish Civil War: between oblivion and the duty of memory

Author: Aitzpea Leizaola (University of the Basque Country)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from a long term fieldwork, this paper addresses how the associations and the institutions deal with the spatial inscription of memory, in particular related to the identification, localization and memorialization of unmarked graves of the Spanish Civil War.

Long Abstract

From 2001, hundreds of corpses of soldiers killed in the front lines but also of ordinary citizens executed during the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath have been unearthed from unmarked graves all over Spain. Since then, claims for truth, justice and reparation have arisen from bottom up social movements, articulated mostly, but not only, around the exhumation of these unmarked mass graves.

More than 70 years after the beginning of the war, the exhumation proceedings, alongside memory policies were given a legal frame for the first time since the end of the dictatorship. While the Law of Historic Memory did not consider the identification of the bodies an obligation, nor a duty for the State, it ruled a whole set of commemoration and memory practices, such as street renaming, pulling down monuments from the dictatorial era and building of new memorials honouring the victims of the Francoist repression. The opening of mass graves has produced a new geography of remembrance both in the countryside and within the cities as long forgotten and even unknown locations are turned into spaces of memory. Drawing from a long term fieldwork, this paper addresses how the associations and the institutions deal with the spatial inscription of memory, in particular related to the identification, localization and memorialization of unmarked graves as well as the commemoration and mourning rituals.

Abandoned factories and authoritative revitalization plans: what about the workers?

Author: Saša Poljak Istenič (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU))  email

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on Ljubljana’s former factories which have turned into brownfields, urban heritage or the object of municipality’s revitalization plans. Its aim is to disclose contested contemporary significance of a socialist heritage and the possibility of workers to voice their memories.

Long Abstract

Since the democratization and the independence processes of the late 1980s and early 1990s, urban centers in former socialist European states have been facing a decentralization and disintegration, a continuous loss of central social functions, migration of population, disappearance or transformation of public spaces, and consequently diminishing of the city bustle. With orientation towards (neo)liberalism, political discourse on socialist past has been mostly negative, causing citizens to distance themselves from its own past, heritage, and identity. Only a few people still feel connected to and identify with industrial sites, mostly those who worked or lived there or/and those who feel that being part of the working class in socialism allowed them to be a respected citizen and have a decent (professional and personal) life. However, after the change of ideological-economic system, they have become marginalized, their memories excluded from the dominant memory, and their heritage left to oblivion.

The paper focuses on Ljubljana's former factories which have nowadays turned into brownfields, urban heritage or the object of municipality's revitalization plans. It draws on ethnographic research of various actors and the analysis of authorized heritage discourse to disclose contested contemporary significance of a socialist heritage and answer the following questions: Who appropriates such sites for his own agenda? How much are these former factories - abandoned, renewed as cultural heritage or used for the development of post socialist economic (creative) activities - still accessible to the industrial workers? Where can they talk about their memories and can/does anybody hear them?

The day before revitalization: hidden spatial practices and hidden expectations towards future within community living inside Horse Racetrack Sluzewiec in Warsaw

Author: Barbara Bossak-Herbst (Warsaw University)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation discusses the attitudes towards top-down project of revitalization within marginalized professional community living in walled, monumental settlement. Findings are based on the ethnographic research collected for the first monography of this troublesome 140 ha enclave in the heart of Warsaw.

Long Abstract

Built with the private money and opened in summer 1939, modernistic Racetrack Sluzewiec possessed stables for 700 horses and social housing for their trainers, jockeys and stable personnel. After World War II polish racetracks and horse breeding were nationalized.

For decades, behind the six kilometers long concrete wall, beyond market rules, in almost autarkic social and economic conditions the close-knit community of workers, with rural origins, has developed. In the meantime the place became surrounded by residential and industrial vivid districts of the capital. The mainstay of modernity turned into the mainstay of rusticity.

In 89' enrolment into register of monuments and transferring the inalienable right of property to the state, have successfully blocked the sale of the land. However horseracing lost their popularity.

Since the transformation, due to the deficiency of affluent horse owners and mediocre interest from administrating State Treasury Company, the place is falling into degradation in many respects. Several buildings stay empty, many time past green areas are running wild. Local people have developed unique multiplicity of grassrooted usages of them and own mikrotoponymy.

Nowadays the administrator has “revitalization” plan. It permits evictions of people and horses, liquidation of training track. The horse people behave passive in face of that. In my research I was interested in their attitudes towards they turf. How they refer, evaluate and what are their expectation towards they natural area? I will also try to consider how they silenced experiences could be included in revitalization process.

The controversial role of urban heritage

Author: Alessandra Olivi (University of Valparaíso)  email

Short Abstract

By focusing on the urban struggle that the residents of Valparaiso articulate in order to oppose the privatization of the former prison of Valparaiso and its transformation in a global cultural hub, the paper aims to evaluate the implications that the activation of citizen has over the reformulation and politicization of the concept of heritage.

Long Abstract

The production of the urban space reflects not only the forms of power, but also those of counter-power. By focusing on the urban struggle that the residents of Valparaiso articulate in order to oppose the privatization of the former prison of Valparaiso and its transformation in a global cultural hub, we examines how the vision of Valparaiso as a heritage city is conceived, produced and contested.

Proposing an alternative reading of the local silenced legacy and strategically using the city heritage status as a frame endorsing their claims, the movement for the defence of the Valparaiso former prison articulates a powerful resistance, counteracting standardization and commodification in urban redevelopment projects.The paper aims to evaluate the implications that the activation of citizen has over the production of the city space and the

reformulation and politicization of the concept of heritage.

Obvious, yet invisible: investigating ignored meanings of Dublin's Moore street in the push for its heritagization

Author: Kate Dearden (University College Dublin)  email

Short Abstract

Ethnographic fieldwork on Dublin's Moore Street reveals alternative meanings and practices associated with the everyday multicultural reality of the space, which are ignored in the debate around how to fit the Street into the Irish tourism industry while adequately honouring its history.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the excluded voices in the debate around the aestheticization and heritagization of Moore Street, Dublin's oldest surviving market and scene of the Easter Rising in 1916. Since the early 20th century, Dublin's government and commercial developers have ignored the street and otherwise promoted the idea that the dominantly working class character should be "cleaned-up", both in terms of its physical appearance and the so-called deviant activities of some of its occupants. As demolition of some of the

buildings emerged as a viable way forward, small groups of citizens have organized in objection, arguing that the entire street holds significance to Irish national identity and should be protected.

This particular grassroots movement has managed to gain public attention that cannot be ignored by those in power in the context of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Meanwhile, the contemporary socio-economic aspects of Moore Street remain invisible in this debate. Over the past two decades, Moore Street has become

one of the most concentrated and ethnically-diverse streets of immigrant commercial activity in Dublin, with the vast majority of shop owners and patrons from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Through ethnographic fieldwork carried out with traders on Moore Street in the spring of 2015, this paper examines alternative meanings and practices associated with Moore Street from the people who create the space on a daily basis, which go beyond those based on an homogeneous nationalist identity, historical tourism or commercial gentrification.

Making memories on the wall: street - art - memory

Author: Hendrikje Grunow (University Constance)  email

Short Abstract

Assuming graffiti as a medium to express critique, in my presentation I would like to explore the possibilities of constructing memory with graffiti and street art with an ethnographic case study from Bogotá, Colombia.

Long Abstract

In the last years, the streets of the Colombian capital Bogota have become a sort of open air art gallery, where different perspectives on the political and social situation of the country are expressed. Especially within the context of the current peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla, the walls of the city have become a place to negotiate different versions of the past and present. Assuming graffiti as a medium to express critique, in my presentation I would like to explore the possibilities of constructing memory with graffiti and street art. Instead of treating the image as a transmitter of a message, I want to analyze the various ways in which graffiti and memory can be related. With four different examples from my ethnographic fieldwork, I would like to show how we can think about the construction of collective memory on the wall: Graffiti as testimonio, as palimpsest, as lieux de mémoire, and as performance.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.