@ TEDx Heriot-Watt
Last week saw the launch of A Companion to Heritage Studies, a major reference work for Heritage research and practice, co-edited by Prof Máiréad Nic Craith and Prof Ulli Kockel from the IRC as well as Prof William Logan of Deakin University, Melbourne.
A Companion to Heritage Studies is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art interdisciplinary reference work for the study of cultural heritage, published in Wiley-Blackwell’s prestigious Companion series. It covers the key themes of research and practice, including cultural preservation, environmental protection, world heritage and tourism, ethics, and human rights. Accessibly organized into a substantial framework-setting essay by the editors followed by three sections on expanding, using and abusing, and recasting heritage, it provides a cutting-edge guide to emerging trends in the field that is global in scope, cross-cultural in focus and critical in approach.
The Companion features 37 contributions written by 44 leading scholars from five continents, including some with extensive experience in heritage practice through UNESCO World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS, and national heritage systems.
The book was launched in the course of ‘Our National Future: Creativity & Creative Industries’, an event organised by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Fellows’ Media, Creative Industries, Culture & Heritage Network on Friday 23 October.
Launching the Companion, RSA Scotland and MCICH Network Founder Ann Packard, said: “This book is global, diverse in content, easily accessible chapter by chapter, deals with both the tangible and intangible and above all is interdisciplinary, interdisciplinarity being at the heart of the RSA. It should be a welcome resource for all who value culture and heritage, irrespective of their discipline and whether a politician, a policy maker or a planner. It is for the lay reader as much as the heritage professional.”
Speakers at the event included Vikki Heywood CBE, Chairperson of the RSA and the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value, who spoke on the Commission’s 2015 Report Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth; Professor Barbara Townley, Chair of Management and Director, Institute for Capitalising on Creativity (ICC), University of St Andrews School of Management, who discussed the ICC’s ESRC project Creative Industries Scotland: Capitalising on Creativity; and Janet Archer, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland, who presented on the Creative Scotland Creative Industries Draft Strategy, issued for consultation on Friday 16 September.
In socio-cultural research, there has been a long-running argument pitching “roots” against “routes” as the source of identity. At a time when identities appear to become ever more detached from territorial connections, it makes sense to define cultural belonging in terms of the intensity of communication within one’s social field, even though individual biographies highlight a problem of context. According to this theory, I would have been an Irishman during the decade 1978-88 when my social field was made up primarily of Irish migrants in Hamburg, Bremen and Leeds before I went to live in Galway and Kerry for three years, where I would have been German. In Liverpool during 1988-1992, I would have been mostly English, then Irish again during 1992-99, German during my time in Bristol 2000-05, and during my seven years in Ulster I could have been Irish or British, depending on the situation. It might be tempting to see this as confirming the popular theory of a postmodern identity warehouse – but I am not convinced.
Outside of Germany, German minorities in Europe have been rather neglected in cultural research. In 2002, Stefan Wolff (himself a German in Britain) presented a survey concentrating on groups that previously would have been described as ‘ethnic Germans’, living in areas designated as ‘German linguistic territory’ and its Sprachinseln (linguistic islands), located mainly in eastern Europe. Panikos Panayi in 1996 offered a first overview of Germans in Britain. Across the British Isles there is a scattering of mostly small local concentrations of migrants with a German background. Some of these local concentrations can look back on a long history as a ‘German community’ or ‘German congregation’, even if, in most cases, that history remains yet to be written. From the early 1970s onwards, following the accession of both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to the European Communities, there was an influx of ‘drop-outs’ and part-time migrants of various description, many of whom settled on the ‘Celtic Fringe’ of these islands, in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
My research on German emigration to the British Isles emerged originally as a by-product of my doctoral dissertation on regional development and everyday culture in the west of Ireland, and in the lecture I will make some reference to this earlier work. Over some three decades – as I turned from student and temporary migrant to being a long-term career migrant – I began to explore this topic in greater depth, which included an element of self-reflexivity.
In the relationships between migrants and host society it is evident that cultural connections with the homeland continue to exist even where migrants may have consciously turned their backs on that country, while cultural connections with their new country of residence have their limits even where considerable efforts are invested to achieve integration. European integration and the globalisation of trade have altered the everyday lived experience of today’s migrants significantly in comparison with previous generations. Conscious ‘rooting’ in the new context nevertheless remains rather difficult. For all the assumed cultural proximity within Europe, it can be shown that within the German cultural experience in the British Isles, spaces and places of concrete everyday belonging are created where elements of ‘German’ culture can find expression.
A handful of themes may be identified that extend across different generations of migrants. These include in particular issues of language and communication in the widest sense, as a process formed by values and patterns of behaviours that have their roots in the childhood of the individual. This applies not only with regard to feast days and holy days in the annual as well as the individual life cycle, but equally in everyday life: from table manners to ways of greeting, leisure habits or ideas and rituals of cleanliness. Habitual attitudes and patterns of behaviour become problematic when they lose their casualness in the encounter with another, foreign life-world.
Since the 1990s, satellite television and the expansion of international traffic infrastructure have made it much easier for emigrants to stay in contact with their country of origin. The food situation has improved, thanks to the internationalisation of trade – although the conversation between two Germans meeting for the first time in these islands often still takes only a few minutes before it turns to the inexhaustible topic of ‘decent bread’.
It has become much less complicated than only a few years ago to identify oneself culturally as German. Moreover, it has become easier to feel ‘Irish’, ‘English’, ‘Scottish’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘British’, or to alternate freely between a globalised version of any of these and an equally globalised German identity. But the postmodern identity-sunshine, forecast to bring about the dissolution of identities in some multicultural ‘melting pot’, has not materialised.
When German migrants talk about their identity, they often use the term Heimat. Many migrants have lived in these islands for a long time, often longer than they ever lived in Germany, and now have children or grand children here. Remarkably, the meaning of the term Heimat for 25-year old migrants differs little from its meaning for 75-year olds. Even in a globalised world, people that come from another country remain ‘others’. This includes German migrants in these islands, even if they have been living here for a long time and have become relatively well integrated.
In contrast to immigrants in the nineteenth century, and also to the mainly Jewish refugees in the 1930s and early 1940s, today’s German migrants are not creating any ‘little Germanies’ in the sense of entire streetscapes, or urban or rural districts, with a distinctly German character. It has become much easier over the past two decades to be German – or whatever else – in Britain, Ireland or anywhere else in the western world. The everyday experience of German migrants in these islands is full of what social scientists call ‘third spaces’. Only, these are no longer streetscapes with an unmistakably German imprint, but rather scattered places where people come together. These migrants’ roots in Germany are both more and less pronounced than they appear to have been for previous generations. To unravel this apparent contradiction by comparative research looking at other migrant groups would be a rewarding task for further field research. Current projects at the IRC researching Baltic and Polish migration are a start; but that is a topic for another occasion.
GERMANS IN BRITAIN is a touring exhibition created by the Migration Museum Project. It is brought to Scotland on the initiative of Heriot-Watt’s Intercultural Research Centre with the generous support of the German Consulate-General Edinburgh, the National Records of Scotland and the University of Aberdeen.
Reporting back from Ethnology Crossroads Conference
by Prof. Máiread Nic Craith, Anna Koryczan and Cristina Clopot
Ethnology Crossroads was a two-day conference organized by the European Ethnological Research Centre in collaboration with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, held on December 5-6th in Edinburgh. The aim was to assess the current state of ethnology in Scotland but also discuss its possible future. This discussion was rounded over the publication of the 14th and last book from the Scottish Life and Society – A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology series and was dedicated to the memory of Alexander Fenton. The list of speakers of the day included two LINCS professors, Máiréad Nic Craith and Ullrich Kockel, and a couple of LINCS students in the audience.
Ethnology as seen and practiced by young academics
The second panel of the conference featured young ethnologists, who are either working on a PhD thesis or are aiming to start one in the future. Fascinating projects were presented by three speakers in connection to the umbrella theme of the panel ‘Ethnologists in the Community’.
The first speaker, Ella Leith, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, reasoned for recognition of Deafness as a cultural rather than a medical issue. In this context, she tried to raise awareness of Deaf disempowerment in higher education as well as to make a clear distinction with regard to ways the society engages with deaf communities, that is, through either taking a stance of ‘deaf wage’ or ‘deaf heart’. Concluding her talk, Ella urged ethnologists to take social responsibility towards minorities they study.
The second speaker, Alistair Mackie, an MSc student at the University of Iceland, spoke of his undergraduate project on the question of European identity in the context of multi-cultural Balfolk events. Alistair’s findings revealed that participants’ perceptions and attitudes towards such cultural encounters vary significantly, thus mirroring the diverse standpoints on European identity.
The third speaker, Carley Williams, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, gave an overview of her research project, which deals with the practice of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in Scotland, in the context of UNESCO 2003 Convention. In her research, Carley aims to develop recommendations that will help to empower and support practitioner communities, ensuring at the same time viability and sustainability of their ICH as a living tradition.
Ethnology of the 21st century – an engaged science reaching high
The young scholar session was followed by a discussion between Dr. Gary West and LINCS Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, designed as a freeform talk. Moving the discussion from ethnology in Scotland towards the broader European setting, the conversation assessed the current state of ethnology. Building up on the conclusions of the previous panel, the two academics discussed about the type of ethnology a researcher might strive for today, when the discipline is at a ‘crossroads’ moment. Far from being parochial, this ethnology is a lively area that includes both rural and urban areas, labelled as ‘engaged ethnology’. It is also led by daring objectives, as marked by the leitmotif of the day, ‘why not’, urging researchers to go further than the journal article to support change.
Other subjects were brought in as well, related to the topics of ethnological research. The ‘power of culture’ to divide but also to bring people together was among these topics, as well as heritage. Taking an example from material culture of a built environment, a suggestion was made to consider narratives of people, the stories and emotions they invest in these structures. Prof. Nic Craith argued for an inclusive consideration of the tangible and intangible aspects of heritage in a research projects, and together with Dr. Gary West highlighted the fact that U.K. has managed to build on its intangible heritage (ICH) better than other countries and that it might benefit from exposing this experience in the larger setting of international discussions around ICH. Ethnology’s role, in this case, is to help safeguard traditions.
The final session looked at the issue of ethnology tomorrow and was chaired by Professor Edward Cowan. The panel included Prof. Andrew Blaikie, Prof. Ullrich Kockel, Dr. Mairi McFadyen and Prof. Stana Nenadic. The two ethnologists (Kockel and McFadyen) were passionate about the potential of ethnology to address issues in the 21st century and set the subject in the context of Patrick Geddes‘ approach to ecological, social and cultural development. While not ethnologists themselves, the other two speakers highlighted the relevance of ethnology for historians and drew many parallels between history and ethnology.
Pushing ethnology further
In line with one of the aims to reach further, the lively discussions of the day were not accessible only in the closed setting of the conference, but were opened to a larger audience through live tweeting. All resulting tweets are now available in this Storify feed.
With so many avenues opened and encouraged by the state of enthusiasm felt by participants, it was suggested that these ideas might actually be starting points for a longer discussion to be carried further in a series of meetings/potential events.
by Cristina Clopot
‘What is the future of the past?’ asked Christina Cameron, a prominent researcher within heritage studies, and she was not the only researcher to ponder on this question. An increased awareness of the richness of past inheritance is not directly linked with recipes to take these forward to be enjoyed by the next generation and to counteract globalisation backlash. Moving the discussion beyond internationally recognised ‘items’, with the trademark of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’, towards smaller communities, the question becomes even more intricate. It is in this precise small area dealing with the heritage of small-scale, minority communities that Cristina Clopot’s research fits in. And the question mentioned at the beginning of the article is central to Cristina’s PhD project centred on Russian Old Believers in Romania.
Old Believers have migrated from Russia in the XVIIth century to escape religious persecutions. They opposed the religious transformations of the Russian Orthodox Church insisting on keeping their centuries-old belief. Old Believers communities exist throughout the world (in places such as Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), however, Cristina’s research is focused on Romania. A small community of about 23,000 people, the Old Believers (Lipovans as they are called in Romania and Moldova) represent one of the 18 officially recognized ethnic groups within the country.
In a country marked by increased globalisation and rapid transformations in the post-socialist period this community has managed to preserve its rich cultural heritage.
Cristina’s research thus engages with Lipovan heritage, both tangible and intangible. The two types of heritage are in a ‘symbiotic relationship’, as an UNESCO representative pointed out. Themes such as continuity and innovation, authenticity or sustainability will be explored within this project through ethnographic methods. The research project is supervised by Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, Chair of European Culture and Heritage and Prof. Ullrich Kockel, Professor of Culture and Economy, and fieldwork is carried with the help of Estella Cranziani Post-Graduate Bursary for Research.
Old Believers Church (image taken by the author)
Part of Old Believers’ tangible heritage, churches, with arched domes and 8 cornered crosses exist in different areas of Romania, predominating however, in the eastern side of the country, where large communities of Lipovans reside. Old Belief is a form of Orthodoxy, close to the Greek form of Orthodoxy, yet with essential differences: e.g. different way of crossing, or the use of Slavonic. Religion is still important for the community today as reflected by the numerous icons encountered in diverse houses and locations I have visited in Romania.
Clothing is another distinct element of their heritage. Once worn every day, traditional dressing is now mostly seen in religious services. The shirt (‘rubashka’) tied with a braid (‘pois’) or the colourful long skirts worn by women are part of the specific landscape in an Old Believer community.
Borsch festival within a community of Old Believers in Romania (Source: Jurilovca village Facebook page)
Apart from crafts related to clothing, boats or house building, iconography is another axial craft within the community. Icons play a central role for the practice of Orthodoxy, acting as messengers between believers and the ‘divine prototype’ they represent. Lipovans have carried this craft from Russia with them and have passed it on from generation to generation.
Image from an Old Believers Church (taken by the author)
‘What is the future of the past?’ remains thus an open question for this community and an interesting challenge to answer within this research project.
“Sculpture, poetry, theatre – tell me,” says Didzis Meḷḳis, “does culture make any money?”
We are sitting in an office in the Latvian Academy of Culture: the International Editor of Dienas bizness, the business section of Latvia’s leading daily broadsheet, and I, Professor of Culture and Economy at Heriot-Watt, having just delivered a keynote at the Academy’s Cultural Crossroads conference as part of Riga’s year as European City of Culture.
“It depends,” I say, “what you mean by ‘culture’.”
If we think of it merely in terms of the cultural industries that since the mid-1980s have been seen as having replaced the money-spinning manufacturing industries of an earlier age, then it depends indeed on which part of the cultural industries we are looking at: some are lucrative cash cows, others are more like bottomless pits.
But that is not the best way of looking at culture and economy, and may even lead to entirely wrong conclusions. If culture is understood more broadly in what used to be anthropological terms (before ‘culture’ was ousted from much of anthropology in favour of ‘society’), then the utilisation of culture as a resource for development – which had been the topic of my keynote – can be realised as bringing significant benefits to society. However, many of these are not easily captured in monetary terms. There are examples where investment in cultural activities leads to a step change in local culture, understood more broadly, that raises the quality of life for all concerned.
Take Derry-Londonderry’s experience as UK City of Culture 2013, for example. It is early days yet, but all indications are that, whatever the immediate financial outcome, the city is a better place as a result of the year’s activities. Riga and Latvia, with their own ethnic tensions, take more than a passing interest in such conjunctions of culture and economy.