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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Cultural heritage, status and mobility

Location Ülikooli 18, 307
Date and Start Time 02 July, 2013 at 10:30


Johanna Björkholm (Åbo Akademi University / The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland) email
Sanna Lillbroända-Annala (Åbo Akademi University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Our focus is the interplay between status and mobility in the processes that construct cultural heritage. What happens in the circulation of cultural stuff as certain elements are ascribed with status as cultural heritage? What does it mean in terms of further mobility for those cultural elements?

Long Abstract

This panel focuses on the relationships between cultural heritage, status and mobility. Cultural heritage can be understood as a certain status that is ascribed to selected cultural elements or natural sites. Status should here be understood as a value-added position within a certain group of people. Still, cultural heritage status does not always imply official appointment. Rather, certain groups or individuals can construct or uphold heritage status for a chosen cultural element.

The creation of cultural heritage status has close ties to aspects of mobility and circulation, as ancientness is often a desired quality in cultural heritage. Even though cultural heritage as a phenomenon is a new mode of cultural production in the present, it still has recourse to the past (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998, 149). Circulation, in this manner, can mean re-appropriation of ancient buildings or objects, various types of re-enactments of folklore or local traditions, as well as cultural re-framing of natural sites or landscapes. But how does cultural heritage status affect the possibility of further mobility for the selected cultural elements?

Discussions concerning concepts such as mobility, gentrification, orchestration and re-vitalization of cultural elements are encouraged as part of the panel. Also, if cultural heritage implies circulation and the mobility of cultural elements, is it possible to identify certain positions within the cultural heritage process, and what do the relations between these positions imply?

Participants working with varying aspects of material, immaterial and natural heritage are all welcome to send in abstracts for and participate in this panel!

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The new wave Kalevalaic rune singing In Finland: an ancient cultural heritage from the past?

Author: Heidi Haapoja-Mäkelä (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

In my paper I examine the language and the expressions that are used in the media to describe the status and character of the new rune singing. Is the genre seen as a stagnant message from the ancient past? Or is it described as a part of a living circulation of the rune singing tradition?

Long Abstract

The kalevalaic rune singing - and especially written and textualized folk poems - has had a great symbolic value and a status of a cultural heritage in the Finnish national romantic discourse for over hundred years. The status and the established role in the literal culture have remained until these days.

During the last twenty years the sung poem has been re-vitalized and it has ended up in concert halls, stages and jam sessions; it has become a visible part of the professional Finnish new wave folk music field. The music made within this genre is often a mixture of traditional elements, avantgardistic improvisation and popular and world music fusion. The new rune singers keep also to these paths: some musicians follow the popular music oriented style, some seek new, unique sounds, and some want to find a tradition-based, "archaic" way to understand "the long-lasting aesthetic of the rune songs".

In my paper I examine how this phenomena has been treated in the Finnish media during the last ten years. What kind of language is used to describe the new kalevalaic rune singing? I study the theme especially from the perspectives of mobility, transformation and continuity. Is the phenomena seen as a part of a living rune singing tradition or is it regarded as a stagnant, ancient message from the past?

Latvian song heritage and the concept of "singing nation"

Author: Valdis Muktupāvels (University of Latvia)  email

Short Abstract

The study focuses on Latvian song celebration and materials for informal, social singing. Studying different aspects of two significant song collections, a special attention is payed to the layers of meaning, having formed the identity construction of Latvians as “a singing nation”.

Long Abstract

The living and informal spirit of Latvian Song celebration has been most clearly represented by the spontaneous social singing of huge masses of people after the final concert. The Baltic song and dance celebration has been included into the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in 2003, and a special law of song and dance celebration has been adopted in Latvia in 2005, thus marking a certain formalization of the more than a century old tradition globally and nationally. Besides, a song collection "Latvieša dziesmu klade" for informal singing has been selected and published in 2008 by the organizing committee, thus raising the status of the aforementioned spontaneous singing to state-supported and professionally-guided event. Consequently, it means a new level of formalization of the previously informal tradition.

The focus of the study is on the collection "Latvieša dziesmu klade", which is compared to "Dziesmu rota" - the essential collection of pre-national singing culture. In the view of these two collections, such aspects as their formation, structure, repertoire and symbolic contexts are studied here, paying a special attention to the layers of meaning, having formed the identity construction of Latvians as "a singing nation".

Intangible cultural heritage, mobility and safeguarding

Author: Johanna Björkholm (Åbo Akademi University / The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland)  email

Short Abstract

My case study concerns traditional music in the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland. I investigate how this genre has been discussed, transformed, standardized and objectified. What does this imply in terms of safeguarding and further possibilities of circulation?

Long Abstract

Cultural heritage is generally used as a token of value. Certain cultural components, both intangible and tangible, that are discussed in terms of cultural heritage. They will be perceived as valuable and should consequently be safeguarded. In my paper I will discuss how certain genres of traditional music were selected and ascribed with special status in the Swedish-speaking districts of Finland. Over time, these genres appeared to be objective intangible cultural heritage.

Intangible cultural heritage depends on performance, that is practitioners using their bodies to act out their traditional knowledge, here through song and musical execution. Intangible cultural components can be transmitted to other individuals in a performance situation, and they can also be documented. In Finland documentation and subsequent filing in archives have been associated with safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.

How does standardization, which is oftentimes an effect both of cultural heritage status and of documentation affect the vitality of intangible cultural elements? Can standardization and mobility even co-exist? If not, what does this imply for safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage? I will argue that solid fixation of intangible cultural elements should be avoided.

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

Author: Irene Stengs (Meertens Institute)  email

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.

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.

Sámi heritage and the making of ethnic boundaries in museum exhibitions

Author: Nika Potinkara (University of Jyväskylä)  email

Short Abstract

The ethnic boundaries between the Sámi and the majority populations are maintained by a limited set of cultural features. In this paper, I examine how the cultural elements regarded as Sámi heritage are used in museum exhibitions, and what it implies for the further mobility of those elements.

Long Abstract

The Sámi are an ethnic minority living in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. In a situation where differences in the ways of life are disappearing or decreasing, the ethnic boundaries between the Sámi and the majority populations are maintained by a limited set of cultural features, including traditional handicrafts, contemporary Sámi costumes, reindeer herding, and the relationship to land and nature. These cultural features, together with the northern landscape of "Sámiland", are often ascribed the status of Sámi heritage.

In this paper, I examine how the cultural features and landscapes regarded as Sámi heritage are represented in the permanent exhibitions of two Sámi museums, Ájtte in Sweden and Siida in Finland. Sámi museums aim to reclaim Sámi heritage and display the Sámi from their own point of view; they are intended to serve as an arena for a dialogue about Sámi identity, promoting a positive Sámi self-understanding. How are the cultural elements regarded as Sámi heritage used by the museums? As selected cultural features are related to the boundary-making processes of Sámi ethnicity, what does this imply for the further mobility of those features?

Modern trophy: contesting technologies of authenticity and value in Niamey, Brazzaville, Paris, New York and Venice

Author: Christoph Rausch (Maastricht University)  email

Short Abstract

I analyze the recent "re-discovery", translocation, commoditization and display of the so-called maisons tropicales. In the mid 20th century Jean Prouvé designed the maisons tropicales for colonial use in Niger and the Congo. In 2001 the structures were removed for sale on the global art market.

Long Abstract

In this paper I draw on multi-sited anthropological fieldwork to describe the connections and disconnections between various actors involved in the case of the "re-discovery", translocation, commoditization and display of the maisons tropicales. My analysis zooms in on powerful practices of collecting art and culture, today. On the one hand, officials from the world of cultural heritage argue for the fundamental site specificity of the maisons tropicales. They emphasize the structures' integrity with the urban built fabric of Niamey and Brazzaville. On the other hand, actors from the contemporary art world present Jean Prouvé's system of pre-fabrication as an essentially "nomadic" instance of modern industrial design. They celebrate the "recovery" of the maisons tropicales from alleged neglect and decay in Africa.

I argue that the removal of the maisons tropicales from Africa problematizes contemporary norms and forms of collecting art and culture. My argument joins the focus of current anthropological scholarship on global exchanges of material culture, including art objects, as well as the production of artistic and cultural value under conditions of globalization. My particular interest is in the emergence of a contested global heritage assemblage around the maisons tropicales. Specifically, I ask how alternative valorizations of the maisons tropicales' are invested in changing global relations of power around art and culture.

Proverbs and the status of cultural heritage

Author: Liisa Granbom-Herranen (University of Turku)  email

Short Abstract

This paper deals with Finnish proverbs both as a phenomenon and immaterial elements of cultural heritage. The focus is on the questions why proverbs have got the status of cultural heritage and what does it mean in practice.

Long Abstract

Proverbs in Finnish language have always been closely linked to changes in the Finnish society as well as global trends. The relationship between the Lutheran Church and the state has had an effect on the collections of proverbs beginning in 16th century. During the 19th and 20th centuries the changes in economic, social and ideological structures of the society have had an impact on the research of Finnish folk traditions. The interest in folklore and language in the 19th century paved the way for the Finnish folkloristic research for quite a long period. The ideas can be anchored in the 17th century Finland as well as in the Reformation. The need for national cultural elements it is to be seen today, in the 21st century and the time of EU, international networks and polyglot communication.

Traditional Finnish proverbs are an example of elements that have got the status "cultural heritage" even if there is no official appointment but it is a question of tacit knowledge. However, the modern proverb tradition has brought up changes in the proverb genre, whereas the earlier oral tradition has found a place in the colloquial written language. Just like proverbs elsewhere, Finnish proverbs are often combined with the history of a nation and this way they might be considered as a value by itself. The paper discusses the grounds of the given status as well as takes up some thoughts what might ensue of labeling something as "cultural heritage".

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.