Making, Sustaining, Breaking – The Politics Of Heritage And Culture
5 October 2016
Photo: Jsporysz / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
What does cultural heritage mean today? How is it identified, who preserves it – and what forces work to destroy it? These questions will be taken up at the Annual Conference of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” of Heidelberg University, from 12 to 14 October 2016. The Cluster will host the event in collaboration with Forum Transregionale Studien, the Max Weber Foundation and the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. Under the heading “Making, Sustaining, Breaking – The Politics of Heritage and Culture” researchers from a range of disciplines, such as archaeology, art history, philosophy, musicology or anthropology will explore the nature of the complex interactions impacting on cultural heritage in political and societal discourse.
Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja, an art historian at the Cluster of Excellence and organiser of the conference says: “We have to start by querying the constitution of ‘cultural heritage’, and shed light on its network of relations with politics, society, the environment and scholarly research. In turn we examine how cultural heritage in the form of artefacts, texts, images or music transforms the areas mentioned. How does the concept contribute to creating meaning and identity, and to the (imagined) stability of a cultural, political or social fabric?” Prof. Dr. Andreas Eckert, who chairs the board of the Forum Transregionale Studien, adds: “Not only the making, defining and preserving of cultural goods is deliberate, but also their destruction, decay or ‘abuse’. This can lead to a loss of identity but also to a new sense of meaning.”
While ongoing academic debates increasingly seek to distinguishthe concept of “culture” from that of “nation”, there is equally a counter movement to consolidate, or even redefine, national identity as culturally homogeneous. Prof. Dr. Hans van Ess of the Max Weber Foundation underlines: “At a time when new nation states are emerging and established ones are redefining themselves, the wish for stability also expresses itself in revolution and religious fundamentalism. In this context, cultural heritage often takes on a new significance, but in some cases may also be ignored or simply eliminated.” And Dr. Philipp von Rummel of the German Archeological Institute believes: “It is one of the responsibilities of the humanities to shed light on these interactive relations.”
The annual conference will open with a lecture by Prof. Dr. Nayanjot Lahiri, a historian from Ashoka University, Delhi. Her talk “Heritage at the Intersection of Politics and People – India’s Archaeological Heritage” will focus on contesting claims of communities and groups to historical sites in India and the role of politics in the domain of cultural heritage. The destruction of cultural monuments in Iraq and Syria will be the topic of a second public lecture, by Prof. Dr. Sinan Antoon, an author and literary scholar from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of the New York University (USA). He is currently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Sinan Antoon will discuss how artistic and literary imaginations respond to the challenge posed by the “Ruins of these Ruins”. The lectures will take place on 12 October (Prof. Lahiri) in the Aula of the Alte Universität, Grabengasse 1, and on 13 October (Prof. Antoon) in the KJC, Voßstraße 2, building 4400. They all start at 6pm and will be in English.