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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P107)

Performing identity and preserving heritage in real and imagined places

Location Tower B, Piso 3, Room T12
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Susanne Österlund-Pötzsch (Society of Swedish Literature in Finland) email
Lizette Gradén (The Royal Armory, Skokloster Castle and the Hallwyl Museum) email
Hanne Pico Larsen (Columbia University ) email
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Short Abstract

How do places give shape to cultural heritage, delimit identities and draw boundaries? Rituals, narratives and museums define the regional, the national and the supranational - this panel examines how these gain importance and how they become invested with meaning.

Long Abstract

How are regional, national, supranational, and transnational spaces created and expressed? In what way do places give shape to cultural heritage, delimit identities, and draw boundaries via recognition of difference? When abstract space overlaps with concrete places these two questions gain special pertinence. Since the time of the great emigration to North America, ritual, narratives, architecture, museums, and theatre have defined the Nordic in the United States as well as in the Nordic countries themselves. Today, such places are subject to contestation, not least among descendants of Nordic emigrants and the more recent immigrants to the Nordic countries. Similar processes can be found in other European countries.

This panel seeks to identify and explore the role of performance in the reshaping of Nordic and European life. With increased collaboration among European countries, there is a noticeable tendency towards producing places with reference to tourism and heritage making. Consequently, a multiplicity of places emerge -- charged with performances of heritage, difference, and identity, and spatialized in overlapping and conflicting ways. At once physical and discursive, these places/spaces help to structure social collectives and organize allegiances.

In the panel, we will discuss how specific places gain importance as cultural heritage sites and how they become invested with meaning, as well as which emotional and spatial means people make use of when considering space and place making. We also strive to form an understanding of the role of folklore in the light of cultural politics in the 21st century.

Chair: Hanne Pico Larsen, Lizette Gradén, Susanne Österlund-Pötzsch

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Scandinavia on show: region and performance in northern Europe

Author: Stuart Burch (Nottingham Trent University)  email
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Short Abstract

Regions are 'real' places, yet to become a reality they must be performed. This is exemplified by the multiple 'stage arrangements' (Goffman) used to define and articulate 'Brand Scandinavia'.

Long Abstract

The word 'region' refers to a subdivision or zone of the world or universe, the distinctive attributes of which set it apart from its surroundings. One such region is known as Scandinavia or Norden ('the North'). This zone is rooted in 'real' places, but for the region to become a reality it must be performed.

Building on Erving Goffman's The Presentation of the Self (1959), this paper will seek out the various 'stage arrangements' that are necessary for Norden to be present and presented. A case in point was the inaugural 'Scandinavia Show' that took place over two days in central London in October 2010. This provided a stage for consuming (sometimes quite literally) the region. The particular qualities, aesthetics and lifestyles associated with 'Brand Scandinavia' were part of a concerted effort to confirm and define the existence of that region -- and render it perceptible.

This resonates with Goffman's use of the word 'region' as 'any place that is bounded to some degree by barriers to perception' (1959: 92). He proposed three kinds of region: front, back and 'the outside'. These will be adapted in order to facilitate an exploration of the performances ('front'), the organisational structure ('back') and the international (or 'outside') audiences for a variety of Nordic stagings -- ranging from the aforementioned 'Scandinavia Show' to commemorative anniversaries and heritage sites, historical debates and cultural controversies. These 'stage arrangements' consist of real places, (in)tangible heritage and discursive constructs which, taken together, constitute the region that is Norden.

Obscurity as heritage: the Þorrablót revisited after the Crash

Author: Kristinn Schram (University of Iceland)  email
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Short Abstract

Rather than national origin or authenticity, obscurity; image; powerplay; and transnationality may form the basis of a prolific practice of heritage. That statement is explored in relation to the ‘Icelandic’ þorrablót and in context with images of the North and recent pre- and post-Crash discourses.

Long Abstract

Rather than national origin or authenticity, obscurity; image; powerplay; and transnationality may form the basis of a prolific practice of heritage. In light of literary sources as well as folkloristic fieldwork the 'Icelandic' þorrablót (THORR-a-blote) tradition will be discussed in relation to prior research and debate. It will also be put into context with images of the North and recent discourses from before and after the economic "Crash" within and without Iceland. As the research suggests the origin and authenticity of the tradition is secondary to the effects of its performance. The obscurity of the tradition at home, and even more so abroad, provides the space necessary to perform and adapt the tradition to disparate contexts, sensory experience and underlying strategies and tactics.

An important context is one where images of the North are re-appropriated in pre-Crash performances of northern (né Nordic) identity. In the wake of the Crash these re-appropriations, once an ironic tactic of gaining access into host cultures, seem more ambivalent and yet remain intrinsically ironic. In light of this the þorrablót can hardly be built on continuity and authenticity. In fact the only aspect it is sure to have in common with ancient practices, obscure as they are in medieval sources, is the exotic context thrust upon them. If the þorri has any consistency as a tradition then it lies in its playfulness and in its constant state of revival and variation. As the paper argues: There lies its power.

Real and imagined places in Sámi identity discourse on the internet

Author: Coppélie Cocq (Umeå University)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper investigates the definition of Sámi identity and traditions through the production of space and the construction of places in digital environments. Further, it examines the implications for the community and for the production of cultural heritage.

Long Abstract

This paper investigates the production of space in digital environments with focus on Sámi identity discourse. For this indigenous people of Fenno-Scandinavia, geographical origin in terms of roots and landscape is a recurrent topic in the ongoing processes of linguistic and cultural revitalization.

The creation and expression of Sámi identity and traditions in relation to the production of a common cultural heritage can be observed in digital folklore. Digital environments are local and global places, i.e. regional and transnational at one and the same time. Since the 90s, the situation for the Sámi has taken a turn for the better not only as a result of political action, but also through a change of attitudes toward minorities. This comes to expression in Sámi identity discourse in digitally born expressive culture.

Sápmi (Sámiland) has gained importance in the politics of cultural heritage in Fenno-Scandinavia. Sápmi is not a defined territory, and the lack of consensus about its historical boundaries causes still today conflicts regarding land rights. However, we find a recurrent and homogeneous representation of Sápmi in digital environments. Based in contemporary examples, this paper investigates the meaning of place as a mindscape, an experiencescape or a landscape.

Further, it investigates the role of folklore on Internet in the ongoing processes of linguistic and cultural revitalization. Also, this study brings to discussion challenges and possibilities to articulate difference without exoticization, or heterogeneity without non-cohesiveness.

Crafted taskscapes for individual heritage production: performances of two blacksmiths in Southeast Estonia

Author: Ester Bardone (University of Tartu)  email
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Short Abstract

In my presentation I will focus on tourism related performances of two professional blacksmiths from Southeast Estonia who have created their own rural “taskscapes” in which they produce heritage that is presented in personalised enactments and narratives, making varied use of the past.

Long Abstract

Blacksmithing is one of the oldest crafts still practiced today, although in Western societies it is no longer a mundane part of people's lives, and forging is frequently introduced in public edutaining demonstrations (e.g. fairs, heritage sites, museums etc.). Being consciously selected and presented for public display, these performances may be considered as heritage production. Although in the context of tourism displays the craft is transformed by commodification, it seems that what captivates the audience is blacksmith as a knowledgeable performer and his skilful engagement. However, it is also the pertinent setting that makes a performance of blacksmithing especially persuasive, and what could be a better site than a farmstead with an actual smithy?

In my presentation I will focus on tourism related performances of two professional blacksmiths from Southeast Estonia. Both craftsmen have created their own rural "taskscapes", including smithies as well as their surroundings, for various performances (demonstrations for groups, workshops, forging a lucky horseshoe for newlyweds, etc.). In these "taskscapes" they produce heritage that is presented in personalised enactments and expressed in individual narratives, making use of both "real" and "imagined" past. I aim to analyse:

• What kind of devices and techniques are used by two craftsmen for creating their performances and how these relate to their identity?

• How taskscapes of both blacksmiths support their performances and heritage production?

• What are the personal meanings of the craft and its past for these blacksmiths and how do they mediate these meanings to the tourists?

A twinge of protest in the bosom of the nation

Author: Katla Kjartansdóttir (University of Iceland)  email
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Short Abstract

In this paper the author deals with the political and cultural role of various Icelandic museums in present times. Their role can no longer be seen mainly in relation to nation-building processes and the sustaining of national identities.

Long Abstract

In this paper the author deals with the political and cultural role of various Icelandic museums in present times. National museums, and other cultural museums, around the world have been facing a problem in post-national / post-modern times and Iceland is no exception. Their role can no longer be seen mainly in relation to nation-building processes and the sustaining of national identities. Through the ages national museums have often served as a shrine of "national treasures" and the so-called cultural heritage of the nation.

The focus has mainly been on "very important men", war victories and other valorizing aspects of national history. Recent theories in ethnology and museology have criticized this role and increasingly emphasized that museums need to take more part in various contemporary and often highly political and controversial themes.

Performing a present from the past: heritage gifts, museums and cultural connectivity

Author: Lizette Gradén (The Royal Armory, Skokloster Castle and the Hallwyl Museum)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing on theories of materialization and performance, this paper discusses gift-giving as an expansive form of materializing relationships and delimiting boundaries between regions, organisations and individuals in the wake of migration.

Long Abstract

Drawing on theories of materialization and performance, this paper discusses gift-giving as an expansive form of materializing relationships and delimiting boundaries between nations, regions, organisations and individuals in the wake of migration. Initially, I discuss gift-giving as a way of materializing relationships and building networks. Thereafter, I map out the social life of the Värmland Gift to America, a collection donated by the Värmland province in Sweden to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis in 1952. I suggest the coinage of "heritage gift" as a means of describing gifts with dense biographies which contain and enact multiple performances that create and recreate the idea of gift-giving in its role as an activity that binds people together. The example of the Värmland gift shows how such a heritage gift kept on the move over time involves a series of performances which have fostered dynamic transatlantic relationships for over fifty years.

The city in a march song: geosymbolism and urban imaginary

Author: Ana Gonçalves (University of Lisbon)  email
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Short Abstract

Briefly, this paper aim to call attention to the way the city of Lisbon is being conceived and shared as a single and personalized space and thus made into urban culture, as well how those acts of imagination and communication are being shaped by social and political contexts.

Long Abstract

Being an essential component of cultural and recreational events of the city, it is not surprising that the urban popular music has gained a continuous and detailed study over the last decades. With some structural and functional specificities, this kind of musical expression constitutes an enunciation from the city that proposes to symbolically elaborate what one imagines having lived and/or one can/wishes to live in it.

Thus, if understood as a performative expression — both musical and literary — that evokes images and organizes common discourses on the city, the Lisbon Great Marches acquire a renewed interest. Once these popular songs are a poetical-musical component of the Lisbon's Folk Marches Parade, one of the main cultural events on municipal festivities, initiated during the first half of the 20th century, the collection of more than forty lyrics provide a unique opportunity to examine a specific part of Lisbon imaginaries over the last seven and a half decades.

Briefly, this paper aim to call attention to the way the city of Lisbon is being conceived and shared as a single and personalized space and thus made into urban culture, as well how those acts of imagination and communication are being shaped by social and political contexts. In order to accomplish that purposes, two themes will be particularly highlighted throughout it: the role of local authorities in the promotion and dissemination of narratives around history and place in urban public space, and the function of musical and cultural expressions as media to spread urban imaginaries.

Performing tasty heritage

Author: Hanne Pico Larsen (Columbia University )  email
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Short Abstract

At the Danish restaurant noma, Danish culture is reduced to the essence of Nordic gastronomic tradition. An innovative chef looks to the past and the future and creates something new and unique. His interpretation of Danishness in the context of the Nordic kitchen is served on a plate.

Through looking at a tentative three-course menu, I comment on contemporary cultural heritage making and the importance of time, timing and trends. At noma cultural heritage is promoted by recognizing its immediacy beyond a mere static representation of an idyllic past. Bon appétit.

Long Abstract

In the kitchen of the Danish restaurant noma, Danish culture is boiled down to the essence of Nordic gastronomic tradition. At noma the innovative cultural ambassador and chef, René Redzepi, is both looking to the past and into the future and creating something new and unique. His way of interpreting Danishness in the context of the Nordic kitchen is served on a plate to the true modern foodie.

In this project I look at how Danish cultural heritage is negotiated in an actual Danish setting and instead of the visual aspect of culture I have focused on a multisensory medium of performance: food.

The noma chef is cooking according to the Ten Commandments from the pan-Scandinavian manifesto containing the new rules of the Nordic kitchen, which was established in 2004. In 2005 the Nordic governments decided to support the manifesto establishing the New Nordic Food Project (http://www.nynordiskmad.org

My work about negotiating Danish cultural heritage within a Danish setting is based on fieldwork at noma. My focus is on the aspects of time, timing and trend specific to the issue of foodways, and more general in the issue of the business of cultural heritage.

Shaping our walks: performing (Nordic) space, place and identity

Author: Susanne Österlund-Pötzsch (Society of Swedish Literature in Finland)  email
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Short Abstract

In this paper, the relationship between walking practices and regional and national identity will be discussed. The point of departure is that ideas of heritage, tradition and identity can be deeply embedded in mundane and taken for granted practices.

Long Abstract

Everyday patterns of movement have a fundamental role in structuring and shaping our lives. Everyday walking can, for example, function as a claiming and performing of space. As a bodily practice walking is often a constituent part of memory processes, linking us to specific places and triggering specific memories ("walking down memory lane"…).

In this paper, I want to focus on a few examples of popular walking practices and discern their relationship with a regional, national, as well as a potentially Nordic, sense of identity. My examples cover the expeditions on foot undertaken by early 19th century Finland-Swedish folklore collectors to current phenomena such as Nordic walking (pole-walking), hiking practices and present-day protestant pilgrimage in the Nordic countries.

As it turns out, ideas of heritage, tradition and identity can be deeply embedded in mundane and taken for granted practices.

My supposition is that popular patterns of movement can have an integral role in the processes of creating, representing and negotiating Nordic as well as national identities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.