SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011
History and placemaking
Location Tower B, Piso 2, Room T6
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 11:30
The SIEF working group 'Historical Approaches in Cultural Analysis' aims to discuss how people refer to history to shape their lives and places, using different methods and approaches to understand the construction, production and function of history and histories in premodern, modern and postmodern societies.
The newly founded working group on 'Historical Approaches in Cultural Analysis' presents itself for the first time at a SIEF congress and encourages members and non-members to participate in this panel. The panel discusses how people use history to shape their lives, places and 'worlds' (implying both the material and mental worlds). Our focus will include past as well as contemporary societies. Topics to be considered include, in particular, the use of history for the construction of family or community stories, the way in which people organise their memory around special events or episodes in their different places, history as a place of recreation and entertainment (such as today in theme parks, and in the 19th and 20th world exhibitions) and history as an economic resource for individuals and communities.
The main questions are: How do people use history to shape their lives, places and worlds? Which kind of history do they use, and in which ways? What are the functions of history in this context? How do people interact with places and spaces by constructing history, and what are these constructions doing with the places?
The panel forms part of a broad research field that includes studies on cultural heritage, 'histourism' and tourism. The special interest of the panel is to broaden this field from the side of 'European Ethnology and to use different methods and approaches to understand the construction, production and function of histories that can, at times, be very different. Members of the working group, but also specialists in other fields (such as material culture, the senses and emotions, memories and memory constructions) are invited to contribute.
Chair: Session 1 (Monday. Paper 1-4): Herman Roodenburg Amsterdam; Session 2 (Monday, Paper 5-8): Dorothy Noyes, Ohio; Session 3 (Monday, Paper 9-12): Hester Dibbits, Amsterdam; Session 4 (Tuesday, Paper 13-16): Michaela Fenske, Göttingen
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
"… since 1351": Fastnacht and history in practice and discourse of scholars and practitioners
History was and is utilised, communicated and materialized in the Fastnacht of south western Germany. The paper examines the separate and joint roles of pracitioners and folklore scholars in furthering the valuation and ritual revival of historical evidence.
The German terms "urtümlich" and "altehrwürdig" (in the sense of "ancient" and "time-honoured") can be found in many self descriptions of carnival guilds in south-western Germany. To be affiliated with the most famous carnival guild, the Vereinigung Schwäbisch-Alemannischer Narrenzünfte, a guild has to provide evidence for its "long tradition" by archival evidence. The historical rootedness of ritual traditions and their associated objects obviously increase their worthiness. The employ of historical evidence shows itself in the material and immaterial implementation of the Fastnacht. Costumes and performances are (re)constructed on the basis of historical evidence. Folklorists have played a considerable role in supporting the carnival guilds' "reanimation and conservation of old traditions". But from the 1960's on, the practices of historical research as well as using history to justify and ennoble forms of tradition in general have been discussed more and more controversially.
How and in which way was and is history utilised and communicated in the Fastnacht? How does it materialize in and tie to the objectifications of this ritual? What role did folklore studies play in developing and discussing this valuation of history?
My sources are testimonials about the development of the Stockacher Narrenzunft (Carnival Guild of Stockach), whose main form of tradition - the so-called "Narrengericht" ("Jester's Court") - can allegedly be traced back to 1351. The meeting minutes and publications of the Tübinger Arbeitskreis für Fasnachtsforschung from the 1960's offer particular insights into the controversial negotiations about the usage of history in Fastnacht.
Heritage, imitation and place in Northern Ireland: a visual perspective
This presentation explores imitation and dialogue in murals in Northern Ireland. Unionist and nationalist communities draw on a shared history and identify parallel claims to victimhood. Although drawing on similar resources, the aim of the 'two traditions' is to assert different loyalties, ideals and ‘imagined communities’. The essence of imitation is to express difference rather than commonality. The paper will feature images of a number of murals in Northern Ireland.
This presentation explores imitation and dialogue in murals in Northern Ireland. The 'two communities' (unionist and nationalist) draw on a shared history and identify parallel claims to victimhood. Moreover, they use similar cultural patterns and visual techniques in painting their visual images on walls across the province. These murals are interactive landscapes in which there is active engagement with both own and other community. Moreover, no mural operates in isolation. Instead there is a network of murals across the region and each one contributes meaning to the larger conceptual framework in shaping senses of place. Exploring historical narratives of victory, dispossession and victimhood, this paper suggests that murals are crucial elements in the construction of Irish and British senses of place. Although drawing on similar resources, the aim of unionists and nationalists is to confirm different loyalties, ideals and 'imagined communities'. The essence of imitation is to express difference rather than commonality and to communicate that difference to themselves and others. The paper will feature images of a number of murals in Northern Ireland.
Vienna meets Berlin: historical imaginary and placemaking as a relational process
This paper focusses – in a relational perspective – on the specific role of historical narratives in the urban placemaking of Vienna and Berlin: While Vienna seems to be a city of retrospective historicity, Berlin is always considered as the permanent-changing metropolis of industrial modernity.
The urban imaginaries of Vienna and Berlin are - to follow Gerald D. Suttles' concept of the "cumulative texture of local urban culture" - based on two contradictory and complementary narratives concerning history: Vienna as the city of a unhurried, nostalgic and retrospective way of life, Berlin as the city of speed, electricity and industrial modernity. While Vienna seems to be an entirely "historical" city, Berlin is mostly considered as a metropolis of change, "condemned forever to becoming and never to being" (Karl Scheffler, 1910). Thus, the two urban narratives concentrate in the antagonism of historicity / ahistoricity. In my paper I will analyse the ways in which the historical imaginary of Vienna and Berlin has developed relationally: Without the idea of Berlin as permanent change, Vienna wouldn't have become the city of "good old times" - and vice versa. The view of the two capitals in Prussia and Austria cannot be separated from each other - it must be told as an integral "Tale of two cities" and a complementary vision of two paths of modernity, "inner urbanization" (Gottfried Korff) and urban life. In short, I would like to show the importance of a relational perspective on historical narratives in urban placemaking. Moreover, the "habitus of the city" shall be presented as the effect of economical structure, everyday practice and a certain image of urban historicity.
The memorialisation of the Highland Clearances: the socio-economic implications of heritage
The paper will consider the memorialisation of the period of the Highland Clearances, one of the most painful and controversial themes in modern Scottish history. It will bring to light the social, economic and political implications of the interpretation of this period by social groups and organisations concerned with the preservation of tangible and intangible heritage.
The paper will consider the memorialisation of the period of the Highland Clearances, one of the most painful and controversial themes in modern Scottish history. The Clearances were part and parcel of the Improvement movement which, in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Scotland, was synonymous with economic development including rationalisation of agriculture and industrialisation. In the Highlands and Islands, this meant a complete re-structuring of their economy with comprehensive agrarian reforms, but also severe social disruption as peasant communities were, often forcibly, removed from the land they occupied. The aim of this paper will be to explore the way in which the Clearances are interpreted locally in community-led museums and through heritage trails focusing on post-mediaeval archaeology and folk life. In the process the following aspects will be brought to light:
• The social implications of the re-telling of the history of the Clearances and their centrality in the construction of a sense of common experience and identity: a crofting identity.
• The economic use of the past in processes and discourses surrounding regional development and economic sustainability, in the case of the Clearances through the promotion of cultural and genealogical tourism.
• The ideological use of the past and pre-clearance life to uphold an alternative vision of land use and ownership. Intrinsically linked with the long-standing debate concerning land reform, the interpretation of folk life and of the Clearances as a major watershed act as powerful ideological and political stimuli for local communities and politically-motivated social groups.
Rebuilding the old and making the new "Werben": history as a resource in postmodern societies
The paper is to discuss the activities of the inhabitants of Werben, a small town in eastern Germany. They use history to enhance the attractivity of their town for tourists, while the bourgeois sources of the past serve to develop the quality of living.
Werben is a small town in eastern Germany. When the inhabitants of Werben talk about their town they locate it in the middle of nowhere, since it is situated at the periphery of the current economic and social dynamics. Since jobs in the region are scarce, many people migrated to western Germany. Meanwhile, Werben's attractivity rests in is history. The old town preserves a more or less intact ensemble from the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is surrounded by gardens, and storks are chattering from the roofs. These characteristics give visitors the impression of coming to a town from the early nineteenth century period known as "Biedermeier" that has not changed during the past two centuries. Since 2004 people in Werben restore their historical heritage in order to construct a new Biedermeier-Werben so as to create new jobs in the touristic sector.
The paper will discuss how the people in Werben use history -- buildings and surroundings, furniture and clothes -- to turn their town into the convincing replica of a Biedermeier-town. In this context, history is interpreted in a peculiar manner, while holding various functions and values for different people. The paper will show how history is used by the agents of the civil society who discover the bourgeois sources of the past and mix it with some of the better qualities of the GDR-heritage to enhance the quality of living in their town.
The nobility's use of space and history in early modern Sweden
Our paper explores how the nobility’s relationship to environment, nature and space changed in 16th and 17th century Sweden. We analyze how this change was expressed through visual rhetorics in the exteriors and interiors of manor houses, as the nobles began to use history as a new way of legitimizing their power.
When in the 1650s, Count Per Brahe ordered a castle built for his wife as a country retreat, he choose a place with a spectacular view and decorated it with landscape and historical paintings. His view of the world and use of surrounding nature was different than that of nobleman Arvid Tawast who, one hundred years earlier, does not seem to have given any thought to experiencing nature when he built and managed his manor houses. His overriding concern was to run a profitable household and defend it.
Our paper explores how the nobility's relationship to environment, nature and space changed in 16th and 17th century Sweden. We analyze how this change was expressed through visual rhetorics in the exteriors and interiors of manor houses, as the nobles began to use history as a new way of legitimizing their power. We locate this transformation in its historical context by comparing two particularly well-documented manor environments.
We argue that the Swedish nobility's relation to their environment changed radically in the seventeenth century and that this change reflected certain state formation processes. As a consequence, the nobility started to behave as outside observers who could shape their environment in various ways to manifest their identity. Building historical monuments and decorating interiors with portraits of ancient kings and ancestors were new ways of using history to glorify both the power of the state and the power of the state elite.
In chainmail, can e-mail: blending medieval and modern at a living history center in Latvia
The paper depicts how the inhabitants of a living history centre in Latvia appropriate history both for making a living by performing for tourists and creating a home for themselves, a life-world that combines elements of medieval and modern times.
This paper is based on long-term ethnographic research among a group of historical re-enactors in Latvia who have adopted the Middle Ages both as a life-style and a source of livelihood. The group permanently resides in a living history centre where they practice and perform 15th century martial arts for their own enjoyment, but also for tourists in order to finance their life-style. While the place is presented to tourists as "history itself", a chronotope devoid of modern detail, contemporary objects and practices get fused with the medieval in the everyday lives of the inhabitants. Drawing upon recent scholarship on historical re-enactment that understands the practice as a way of democratizing historical knowledge and as a method for approaching the past's affective side (Agnew 2004 and 2007), the paper attempts to shed light on how the fictions of history become objects of desire to be recreated and celebrated as means to achieve perfected contemporary lives.
Bits and pieces of Macambira history: the collaborative constitution of a quilombo territory
With the aid of video footage of an ethnographic case, this paper focuses on how black rural communities have used history as a political mechanism in their claim for the status of quilombo and the legal rights to the land they occupy.
When the Brazilian Constitution of 1988 granted black rural communities, whose members identify themselves as quilombolas, the property rights to the land they occupy, quilombos were still perceived in the popular and political imaginary as historical patrimony. This romantic portrait of settlements created by runaway slaves living in harmonious isolation soon gave way to a contemporary version shaped by pressing issues of land reform, racism, poverty and citizenship. Even though these communities are now self-identified and are no longer expected to conform to the traditional model of quilombo, the official definition of a quilombo is still based on a historical background of resistance to slavery and land occupation. This paper explores one specific case in which an anthropologist and the leaders of a black rural community collaborated to substantiate the community's cultural and historical claim to the status of quilombo by piecing together material elements and narratives of their past. I followed and filmed this process as people searched for material evidence to validate their historical ties to the land such as landmarks, fragments of ruins where old houses once stood, old land deeds and archival documents that traced the group's ancestry to a single freed slave who had originally purchased the land they occupy. While it was used as political tool to transform a stretch of land into a quilombo territory, these bits and pieces of history also entered the symbolic framework with which the community performed their quilombola identity.
Doing the field! Waterloo, 'histourism' and placemaking
This paper analyses how nineteenth-century British travellers attributed meaning to the battlefield of Waterloo. I will especially focus on how the field ceased to be the place of an important contemporary event and became instead a place of ‘histourism’ and became increasingly historicised.
After Waterloo Europe opened up for an increasing number of British travellers and well-troden tourist trails developed. A visit of the battlefield became immediately a standard feature of most of these trails and 'doing the field' maintained its position of preeminence throughout the nineteenth century. This popularity was foremost a result of the 'meaning' the travellers ascribed to the battlefield. On the one hand Waterloo became a 'national shrine' of Britishness as it summed up for the travellers the reasons why Britain was successful and what made Britain special. On the other hand it provided the travellers with readymade access to the past and Waterloo can therefore be seen as a site of 'histourism'. The travellers' relation with the past was characterized by their desire for authenticity and their reliance but also frustration with the overt commercialization.
By analysing a wide range of nineteenth-century British travel accounts on Waterloo this paper will not only analyse the travellers' attitudes towards Waterloo as a place of commemoration, it will also explore how these travellers contributed to the place of Waterloo as a 'national shrine' in nineteenth-century British cultural memory. Furthermore, as the memory of the battle changed drastically during the nineteenth century from a contemporary event to an increasingly past event, the analysis of the travel accounts is also suited to focus on how Waterloo became gradually more 'historicized'. This paper is therefore relevant both for the study of general nineteenth-century attitudes towards the past and for the study of placemaking.
Material culture in early modern times: how does it shape the lives and places of people?
The focus will be on three fields of objects - silver ware, books and paintings. They will be investigated on the basis of autobiographical sources (diaries of Samuel Pepys), of probate inventories and of paintings.
The discussions on consumerism and the birth of the consumer society are still going on. Can we see already a beginning in early modern times? Can Samuel Pepys be an example for this special kind of purchaser? Confronted with totally different people and their - mostly conservative - ways of place making this question should be discussed on the basis of rather different sources - diaries (like that of Samuel Pepys), probate inventories and paintings.
The making of places in early vernacular architecture studies: the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as an example
The contribution focuses the shaping of places by early vernacular architecture research in two aspects: first, the characterization and creation of places by “typical” forms of houses. Second, the research as place for shaping one’s life through the documentation of vernacular architecture.
Vernacular architecture research in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had its starting point in 1891 within the Anthropological Society in Vienna. The enthusiasm of the early researchers - many of them amateurs - and the fact that there was nearly no knowledge of rural houses led to the construction of places and regions of "typical" houses. Starting with one of the first attempts which divided the whole monarchy into five areas with specific types of houses, further research led to a more differentiated view. Authors like Johann Reinhard Bünker or Rudolf Meringer picked out certain places and their surroundings and described some of the buildings found there in a very detailed way, thus shaping a virtual landscape of houses. Offprints of articles in the society's journal led to a wider spreading of the new knowledge, drawings and, later-on, photographs laid the foundation for the imagination of selected places. Bünker, e.g., being a descendant of Swiss immigrants to Carinthia and afterwards living and working in western Hungary, wrote about 15 mostly extensive articles on places of German, Hungarian or Polish speaking population and is actually even cited as an early witness on a website about ecological sheep breeding in eastern Styria.
A second aspect is the Anthropological Society as a place for vernacular architecture research as joint interest of people who - in turn - invested lots of time and money to "conquer" places as important dimension for shaping their own lives as professionals or amateurs.
Fields and figures of historical imagination in Cerfroid
This paper analyses the various uses of history in the construction of a renascent Trinitarian community in the convent of Cerfroid, and in particular the role of nature and architectural relics in binding cognitive receptions of historical narrative to emotional perceptions of sacred territory.
The convent of Cerfroid, in Northern France is the place of foundation (1198) of the Trinitarian Order. In the 1980s, a community of monks, nuns and lay people returned to the site, mostly abandoned since the French Revolution, and today leads a life of prayer and daily tasks in accordance with the Trinitarian mission. The binding element of this community is strongly related to the construction of a historical narrative based on sparse historical sources and founded in a physical experience of the site.
A variety of histories are used to build "Cerfroid". A restricted pool of artefacts and representations help construct a collective memory anchored in its territory, as a field of foundation, history and renewal. The same objects can incarnate alternately the figures of glory, traumatism and rebirth, three recurrent figures of Trinitarian history. The Ruins, for example are solicited as embodiments of all three figures. With little attention to true chronologies, guided visits and yearly processions compose narratives with these traces in order to transmit a collective memory.
Personal imagination interprets this collective imaginary according to different levels of knowledge and indulges in free associations. A series of transect walks undertaken in Cerfroid reveals how a shared but fragmented historical culture diffracts according to individual emotional and sensorial perceptions of the site which freely map transmitted narratives onto its territory.
In Cerfroid, the completion of historical narratives by an emotional adherence to a material place enables community to constitute itself on the grounds of a sacred territory between history and myth.
The negation of history: place-making and displacement in East Timor
By studying the return migration of a highland village in East Timor, this paper examines the way people make place by negating recent historical events of war and displacement. However, despite their attempts to keep history at bay by connecting themselves to a ‘golden’ ancestral time, the recent past continuously imposes itself onto their daily lives.
This paper explores the way people make place by negating history. The focus is a village in the highlands of East Timor, whose inhabitants were forcibly resettled during the Indonesian occupation of the country (1975-1999). After over twenty years of absence, the villagers moved back to their ancestral lands and I examine how they relate to their past and the ways in which they reconnect themselves to their place of origin. Despite their long absence, local inhabitants rarely spoke about the occupation and the forced displacement. Instead of framing their current situation in relation to the violent events of the recent past and their dislocation, the people I worked with stressed the importance of 'following the ancestors'. In the ancestral past, they said, they were so prosperous that golden discs hovered over the village. People said that if they followed the ancestral ways today, they would be able to revitalise this ancestral time and the prosperity associated with it. My main argument is that the emphasis on a utopian ancestral past is a way in which people negate the ever-changing nature of history. However, the dramatic and violent events of the past have inscribed themselves onto the landscape people inhabit, which means that it is hard to keep history at bay. I examine how despite the negation of history, the recent events impose themselves onto people's daily lives, forcing them to engage with the way history continues to shape their lives and the environment they inhabit.
The life of the death of "The Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin": storytelling in the Museum
History is negotiated and represented in diverse and contested ways. Narratives generated around the display and burial of the skeleton of Joan Wytte provide a lens to examine how the past is used to help shape senses of meaning and identity in the world through materiality, place and narrative.
The skeleton of Joan Wytte was displayed in the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall in the UK for several decades until her eventual burial in nearby woodland in the autumn of 1999. Her earthly remains proved a valuable focus for many visitors to the museum in search of tangible threads to magical histories. Described as 'the fighting fairy woman of Bodmin', her story has been deployed as a critical historical source for over 50 years: as a demonstrable link between Cornwall and magical histories, as an ancestral connection for contemporary pagan practitioners, and as inspiration for a folkloric performance that explores the story of the healer-witch.
This paper explores the ways that place, materiality, and narrative are enmeshed as people shape their lives and worlds. It is well established that the past is recorded and represented through narratives, artefacts and events in multiple and diverse ways, and museums are often idealised sites for representation. Nevertheless, narratives are contingent on current needs and agendas, and are often contested. Through retelling over time, or across different interested groups, certain elements are highlighted or downplayed, or notions of continuity are reified. Since the burial, the life and death of Joan Wytte has become vividly invested with new meanings as her story becomes incorporated into the landscapes of folklore, Cornish histories, and magical practices. At the same time, evidence for Joan's identity is also under scrutiny, which may raise further questions for the ambiguous territory between everyday perception of folklore, history and the past.
The past, placemaking and belonging: the case of Geba in Guinea-Bissau
Geba is currently a small village in central Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. Until about one hundred and twenty years ago it used to be one of the most important trading posts in the region. Geba’s origins can be traced back to the mid seventeenth century when it was founded by the Portuguese. It soon became an economic, political, and cultural vibrant hot spot where Africans, Cape Verdeans, and Europeans met before it fell into political, economic and demographic insignificance in the late nineteenth century.
Despite this, oral narratives are used by Geba’s population to construct a local identity on these historical grounds, partially also crossing ethnic and religious boundaries that prevail in the village. The malleability and flexibility of such narratives allow both Christians and Muslims to emphasize different aspects of history, underlining their respective ancestors’ significance for Geba’s former importance. Various lieux de mémoire (Pierre Nora) – such as buildings, sacred places etc. – serve to construct and to “remember” history, creating historical-mystical spaces that reflect the past. These creative productions help to cope with daily challenges in a country that is characterized by severe political, economic, and social problems.
Geba is currently a small village in central Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. Until about one hundred and twenty years ago it used to be one of the most important trading posts in the region. Geba's origins can be traced back to the mid seventeenth century when it was founded by the Portuguese. It soon became an economic, political, and cultural vibrant hot spot where Africans, Cape Verdeans, and Europeans met before it fell into political, economic and demographic insignificance in the late nineteenth century.
Despite this, oral narratives are used by Geba's population to construct a local identity on these historical grounds, partially also crossing ethnic and religious boundaries that prevail in the village. The malleability and flexibility of such narratives allow both Christians and Muslims to emphasize different aspects of history, underlining their respective ancestors' significance for Geba's former importance. Various lieux de mémoire (Pierre Nora) - such as buildings, sacred places etc. - serve to construct and to "remember" history, creating historical-mystical spaces that reflect the past. These creative productions help to cope with daily challenges in a country that is characterized by severe political, economic, and social problems.
Persecuted private farmers: peripetia of relation to own village and its history
The Czech village underwent fundamental political, economic and social changes during the 20th century. Forcible collectivisation of agriculture changed the social roles of particular actors and determined their place in the historical process. The interpretation of personal and family destinies fills out our historical knowledge of localities.
The concept of work-collaboration in socialist agriculture was based on the belief in the easy conversion of personal and family behaviour patterns. The changeover from private to common ownership was considered only through political and economic categories. Forcible collectivisation of private farms in Czechoslovakia proceeded from 1949 to the mid-1950's. Collectivisation methods were similar in the all countries of socialist block. This influence is apparent also in the language used to present collectivisation in contemporary press reports; however, it is also reflected in the events' interpretation by actors themselves. The shaping of family destinies in the historical framework of collectivisation shows the labyrinth of social relations and ways of interpreting the past lived reality. The social group of persecuted private farmers was very heterogeneous and the means of dealing with the radical change of life values as well as economic and social status were different. Until 1989 collectivisation was presented as a success of the socialist economy. Violence was concealed and belittled. Space to investigate the historical events only opened up in the 1990's, when the archives were partially opened. Studies that analyse the narratives of witnesses and their offspring are still rare. The present contribution is based on the findings of a qualitative research project of 18 private farmers, who were persecuted during collectivisation. Their personal and family stories reflect the creation of Czech villages' historical consciousness. This paper contemplates the interpretation and re-interpretation of events and the process of seeking an identity in a changed world.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.