ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment


Re-membering transnational living heritages

Location Appleton Tower, Seminar Room 2.11
Date and Start Time 20 June, 2014 at 09:00


Máiréad Nic Craith (Heriot-Watt University) email
Tawny Paul (University of Northumbria) email
Mail All Convenors


Heritage is usually regarded as linked to places and bounded (national) spaces. This panel explores heritage that straddles such boundaries, or crosses them by migration, over time, raising issues of memory, membership, displacement and relocation.

Long Abstract

Heritage is usually regarded as linked to places and bounded (national) spaces. Coinciding with and continuing beyond the Enlightenment, economic and political changes initiated large-scale displacement and relocation, processes continuing and exacerbated by wars, natural disasters, and accelerating globalisation. As a result, the significance of national boundaries has been changing. Drawing on a broad range of ethnographically informed case studies as well as theoretical analysis, this panel explores both sited heritage that straddles boundaries, such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites that extend across borders, and mobile heritage crossing boundaries, by migration or otherwise. We are particularly interested in how individuals and groups of people relate to these heritages over time, how these relationships re-define (=shift the boundaries of) places and spaces, how these processes are memorised and commemorated, and how they thus generate a sense of membership and "home". Our focus is especially on heritages that, while they may attract visitors, are not merely a tourism product, but part of people's everyday life as knowledge, skills and practices. We encourage international, interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Cracking the cultural code: living heritage in a UK city of culture

Author: Máiréad Nic Craith (Heriot-Watt University)  email


This paper explores the layering and re-shaping of the narrative of Colmcille/Columba in Derry/Londonderry in anticipation of the inaugural UK City of Culture. It contextualises the emergence of a fresh narrative which sought to re-define the city as a common heritage space for a previously divided people.

Long Abstract

In 2013, Derry/Londonderry became the inaugural UK City of Culture. Given tensions between national and unionist versions of history, the title generated considerable debate on the location of Derry/Londonderry's culture within a UK and/or Irish context. All this had implications for the trans-national character of Columba/Colmcille who had been appropriated by competing secular and religious versions of history in the past and who featured prominently in the year-long celebrations. This paper explores the layering and cultural appropriation of the narrative of Columba/Colmcille over the centuries and the re-shaping of his narrative in anticipation of the year of UK City of Culture. It contextualises the emergence of a fresh narrative in the new political context which sought to re-define the city as a common heritage space for a previously divided people.

Dislocated heritage guerillas on Estonian borders

Authors: Aet Annist (University of Tartu)  email
Kristin Kuutma (University of Tartu)  email


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.

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.

Mining legacies: the case of Ouro Preto, Brazil.

Author: Andreza Aruska De Souza Santos (University of St. Andrews)  email


This paper explores fluid perceptions of "local" and "foreign" for residents in Ouro Preto. Ideas of membership are not settled in this UNESCO world heritage site and tourists, students, temporary workers and local residents articulate different ideas of memory and inclusion.

Long Abstract

Many cities in Southern Brazil are the result of intensive mining activities. The pattern of work migration and challenging conditions imposed by weather and geological risk did not prevent some spaces to grow beyond a working ground. Ouro Preto has long greatly profited from the hunt for gold and other minerals. The boost in economy brought by mining activities meant architectural and cultural dynamism, and the city is today a UNESCO world heritage site. While mining activities continue, some people in town wonder whether mining or its legacies are a value to be preserved. It seems difficult to combine the preservation of a culturally and architecturally unique city with mining activities that require heavy machinery and the exploitation of the surrounding landscape. While today most of the local population works in the tourism sector, working migrants find occupation in the mining sector, resulting in divided interest between preserving the city and resource extraction. Hence, perceptions of outsiders in the city are fluid: tourists are taken as part of the city for many residents, while the perception about temporary workers is articulated differently. In addition, the local university greatly augmented its student and staff body in the last decade and those too compose a volatile residential group. This paper explores ethnographically how residents deal with newcomers in town. Concepts of what is "foreign" are fluid and related to economic activity, so that tensions between different users of the city resemble memorized narratives of social divide in this colonial town.

Imagining, emplacing and enacting ‘our own heritage’ by refugees and labor migrants: cultural embeddedness vs. social experience

Author: Vytis Ciubrinskas (Vytautas Magnus University)  email


Traditional connotation of ‘own heritage’ is challenged by migration's tension of double loyalty to the host and departure countries which is contested by social relationality and cultural embeddedness of imagining, emplacing and enacting of ‘own heritage‘ by East European IIWW refugee and labor migrants in the USA.

Long Abstract

The traditional connotation of ‘our own heritage’ is challenged by migration’s tension of double loyalty, to the country of departure and to host country. However cultural embeddedness of ‘heritage’ is a process which seems is able to slow down this double loyalty.

Based on the fieldwork among the East European immigrants in Chicago the diversity of cultural embeddedness of ‘heritage’ is shown through the imagining, emplacing and enacting ‘heritage’ in two ways – ‘heritage as identity’ and ‘heritage as social experience’.

The first way - of post-IIWW refugee migration ‘imaginaries of heritage’ created through culture collections (Clifford 1997) homes as museums (Kockel 2002) and through the ethnic communities of shared moral imperative. Here the idea of ‘heritage’ is shaped as culturally embedded ancestry myth or symbolic system (language, religion) but also as socially embedded trauma of, by the communist regime devastated home=homeland. So ‘heritage as re-enacted and re-emplaced’ , it is created as alternative to real home left behind.

The second way - of post-socialist East European labor migrants is focused on social memory and re-enactments of everyday life experiences left in the country of origin. It is the recreation of social knowledge, rules of conduct and home as ‘own space’ (Liubiniene 2009) as a pattern of festive culture, trust and social bonding rooted in socialist and post-socialist ‘economy of favors’ (Ledeneva 1998) which provides culturally embedded enactment of ‘our own experience’ in ‘own circle’.

China: mythical land of ancestors or the PRC as a nation-state? Meanings of heritage, home, and nationhood in Chinese-American heritage travel

Author: Elisabeth Moolenaar (Universität Bremen)  email


This paper describes contested readings of heritage through the lens of a Chinese-American heritage travel program. In an ethnographic analysis it examines the role of heritage in the shaping and experiencing of identities and belonging in a transnational context.

Long Abstract

Every year since the "opening-up of China" a group of twelve young Chinese Americans from the San Francisco bay area travel through Southern China to "search for their roots." During the journey various, sometimes clashing, ideas emerge of China, home, Chineseness, and heritage. The PRC has tapped into deeply-embedded modes of belonging, notions of disrupted family connections, and Confucian ideology to bind Chinese Americans to China in the hopes of future investments by orchestrating highly ritualized returns as part of their Roots Seeking Summer Camp. By employing a type of racialized heritage based on blood and an unbreakable connection to both the ancestral village and the territory of the PRC as a nation-state, government officials try to instill a sense of nationhood among heritage travelers. To the travelers, however, heritage is comprised of knowledge, customs and practices—reworked during their journey to span across the borders of the nation-state, partially based on memories of the ancestral village and located in the imagination.

This paper examines these, at times contested, readings of heritage, and unveils contradictions present in heritage travel programs. It describes the process of presentation and interpretation to create and impose Chinese heritage by various actors. Furthermore, the research investigates the relevance of China as a homeland for second and later generations Chinese American youth, and the extent of membership in the Chinese nation. Using ethnographic data, it discusses the role of heritage in the shaping and experiencing of identities and belonging in a transnational context.

‘Guard the good deposit’: migrant Christians recreating heritage in suburban church life

Author: Natalie Swann (University of Melbourne)  email


This paper analyses narrative accounts of migration from Christians in three churches in Melbourne. It discusses how heritage is embodied in local physical and relational space. It pays attention to the way ‘home’ is remembered and recreated in everyday, liturgical aspects of worship and memory.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses the ways in which the heritage of Christian migrants is embodied in local physical and relational space. Based on research with migrants who worship at three Christian churches in suburban Melbourne, it discusses the ways in which migrants’ faith converges with how they remember and recreate ‘home’.

While ethnicity and religion are often profoundly intertwined, Christian denominations also transcend – and even relativise – ethnic and national boundaries. Australia’s own denominational landscape is related to its migration history; some churches in Australia have accommodated new waves of migrants, while others have been established to accommodate new intersections of ethnic and religious identity. This study involved two multi-cultural English-speaking congregations (one Catholic and one Seventh Day Adventist) and one multi-cultural Arabic-speaking Baptist congregation.

Each of the three congregations engaged in this project has a different theological heritage which shapes the worship service, the architecture and buildings used, and the daily practice of parishioners. The migrants involved typically value things such as physical environment, familiar songs, and other badges of ethnic identity as part of their spiritual heritage alongside the less tangible heritage of a particular theology (whether it is one they were raised in or one that they have chosen).

Drawing on participant observation, interviews and photography, this paper presents reflections on what Christian migrants consider to be significant to their own heritage and how they recreate and remember that heritage in physical space and in their everyday liturgies.

"Fado, codfish and Fatima": identification and differentiation amongst the Portuguese in Toronto

Author: Marta Rosales (Instituto de Ciências Sociais)  email


By exploring the routine uses of a widely shared set of Portuguese cultural heritage items, the paper investigates new processes of differentiation and identification and their coexistence with more “classic” configurations of distinction and affiliation of a group of Portuguese migrants in Toronto.

Long Abstract

The "Portuguese community" of Toronto consists of three generations of migrants who, like most of other migrant contingents in Canada, presents classic communalization mechanisms (spatial concentration, associations, independent cultural agenda, alternative media productions), which reproduce and reinforce de use of Portuguese culture most significant contemporary items such as fado, codfish and Our Lady of Fatima. However, and despite their effectiveness, the community also presents crescent mechanisms of difference and distinction. Less based on ethnicity than on class, gender, age, cultural capital and social affiliation these factors are affecting, not only the relationship of the Portuguese with the city and its population, but also the ways the group sees itself as such, since they promote original forms of identification and belonging. Without necessarily questioning or devaluing Portuguese heritage, these mechanisms generate and promote new forms of appropriation, domestication and strategic use of heritage, while challenging naturalized understandings and crystallized practices. Based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper aims contributing to the investigation of these new processes of differentiation, their impacts in terms of identification and interaction and how they coexist and negotiate with more "classic" configurations of difference and affiliation. Through a focus on everyday routines, domestic practices and mundane material culture, the paper unfolds and discusses the existing heterogeneity of the Portuguese in Toronto, its foundations and materializations and explores the work of key heritage items, at the level of practice (music, food and foodways, religious practices), in the production and management of identification and difference.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.