Accepted paper:

Dislocated heritage guerillas on Estonian borders


Aet Annist (University of Tartu/Tallinn University)
Kristin Kuutma (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

We analyse the meaning and results of heritage dislocations amongst the Seto on the Estonian and Russian border, and amongst Estonians abroad. Such data shows how time and space are heritagised, redefining obligations of rootedness and rights for possession and aligning and activating groups.

Paper long abstract:

We aim to comparatively analyse the meaning and results of heritage dislocations based on our ethnographic fieldwork on the one hand in culturally distinct Setomaa, a region split between Estonia and Russia, and on the other hand, amongst UK and USA Estonians of different generations. Unbounded heritage is often the result of a dislocation: either due to migration or due to border changes. Both instances trigger a particular form of "heritagisation", defining a certain source for celebrated heritage. As such, a heritage designation is a value-laden social construct that shuns any neutral ground of connotation in time or space. Being a project of ideology, heritage urges the preservation and celebration of elements of a reified past and a 'home' that are intended to manifest obligations of rootedness and rights for possession. The intervening cultural political inclusions and exclusions address the concerns of the (unbounded?) present. We are interested in how the source of heritage becomes the place left behind or dislocated behind a new border. Concurrently, we analyse how heritage becomes a mentality to be rescued and taken to a safe place by the migrant or kept alive despite the border. Defending the "home in the head" generates various heritage guerrilla groups that found their quest on heritagised time and space. The interfaces of such sources are a fruitful ground to understand how people negotiate and regulate the multiplicity of meanings of the past, as well as arbitrate the present politics of identity, belonging and exclusion.

panel P09
Re-membering transnational living heritages