Accepted Paper:

Branching into heritage: a genesis of the Anne Frank tree and its multiplications  

Author:

Irene Stengs (Meertens Institute)

Paper short abstract:

By tracing the genesis and movements of Anne Frank Tree material heritage, I aim to bring out the politics of authentication involved in the struggle over its preservation. I approach the parties involved in these practices as participating in a ‘tournament of value’ (Appadurai) in a moral status competition.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents a social biography of the so-called 'Anne Frank Tree' as a case study of the mutual relationship between commemorative culture and everyday practices of heritage formation. Anne Frank Tree is the name of the chestnut tree that stood in the garden behind the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family were hiding during WO II. Its everyday presence, however, has become charged with symbolic meaning through its comforting featuring in Anne Frank's diary. As an instance of the social memory of the persecutions of Jews in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, and by implication of the holocaust, the decay of the tree in its latter days became a matter of local and international concern. In 2007, the intended felling was brought to a hold by a group of neighbors who felt that doing away with the tree would equal doing away with the memory of the suffering of Anne Frank. The tree's fall in 2010 did not imply its (social) death, since it lives on as cultural heritage in a multiplicity of forms and places as wood, chestnuts, seedlings, and saplings, but also as a new sprout on the remaining stump. By tracing the genesis and movements of Anne Frank Tree material heritage, I aim to bring out the politics of authentication, the potentialities and controversies involved in the struggle over its preservation. I approach the parties involved in these practices as, in Appadurai's terms, participating in a 'tournament of value' (1986) in a moral status competition.

Panel P38
Cultural heritage, status and mobility