Workshops on Heritage and Identification

A review by Katalin Pataki (CEU – CEFRES)

As one of the main research areas of CEFRES is entitled “Objects, Traces, Mapping: Everyday Experience of Spaces”, the scholarly events of Prague that set into focus the concept of heritage and its manifestations in various spaces and social practices, rightly fall into the scope of its news. Two exciting workshops deserve special attention, as they brought together young researchers from several institutions generating lively discourses on the notion of heritage and its capacity to feed into the formation of identities and places in various spatial settings.

The TEMA Erasmus Mundus Master Program and the research group Cultural Heritage – Identification – Public Places – City (CHIPPC) held an interdisciplinary workshop “Heritage, Identifications and Public places in Cities” on 2nd December 2016, in Špork Palace’s attic.

The presentations of the morning session revolved around the “Dialogue between Architect(ure) and Histor(ian)y” and provided insight into the research projects developed in the framework of the TEMA program. Gyöngy Molnár (TEMA, MA student) gave account on her findings about the design and development of Mátyásföld, a turn-of the-century suburban villa district in the agglomeration of Budapest that came to existence between 1887 and 1914 and might be also interpreted as an unusually early, Central European example of the middle-class garden city. Davi Costa da Silva (TEMA, MA student) gave his presentation on five urbanistic projects in Brazil that were initiated and carried out by the Czech shoe company named Baťa between 1940 and 1950. The presenter investigated whether the design of the “Baťa towns” followed an “ideal plan” of industrial towns by comparing their maps and developmental history. Nari Shelekpayev (TEMA Alumni and Ph.D.Candidate of the Université de Montréal) sketched up a wide spectrum of methodological and conceptual considerations in his talk entitled “Visible Power: Genesis of the Elaboration of Contemporary Capital Cities, 1850-2000”. The fifth presentation given by Yigitcan Ucar (TEMA MA student) set into focus a contemporary phenomenon, namely the gated communities of present day Istanbul and inquired into the social composition, communal and cultural life of the inhabitants of the guarded, controlled and watched residential areas with a particular interest in their motivation to opt for this specific form of housing. The five presentations offered the basis for lively discussions chaired by Jaroslav Ira (Charles University) and enriched by the comments of the architect, Eva Špačková (Technical University in Ostrava).

In the overture of the afternoon program, we could learn about the perspective of the architects whose creativity and sensitivity for the past of a town can be essential when it comes to the question how the cultural and architectural heritage of a settlement can be preserved and integrated into the development plans. Eva Špačková’s presentation emphasized the importance of devoting more attention to the specificities of urban planning in small- and middle-size towns. She supported her arguments with examples drawn from the works of her (former) students who added their expertise particularly to the developmental projects of smaller towns on the countryside. She spoke about the illustrative case of the border town Hlučín where both the old structural elements (e.g. the road system or the historical core of the town, the remnants of its fortification) and the buildings hinting at different layers of the past of the town could be successfully incorporated into the revitalization projects and they occasionally even served as inspiration for the new designs.

The presentations of the afternoon session were held by the members of the working group CHIPPC under the title “Cultural Heritage in Identification strategies ” and it was chaired by Prof. Luďa Klusáková (TEMA Scientific Manager in Prague, Head of the Seminar of General and Comparative History).

Jan Krajíček’s presentation completed the practical examples of professor Špačková’s talk with   a fine conceptual framework as he spoke about the different concepts of heritage and dealt with the question how heritage can become instrumental in regional revitalization and enumerated various motives for preserving and protecting buildings, objects or customs as heritage. He also introduced the concepts of tangible and intangible heritage, as the differentiation between them was essential also for the two PhD projects presented in the second half of the panel. Tereza Horáčková (TEMA Alumna, PhD. student of the Charles University and EHESS) provided a brief summary of the main research questions of her PhD thesis in which she investigates the cultural transfer between two generations of Vietnamese immigrants in Prague and intends to reveal what kind of intangible cultural heritage becomes identified in their communities, what kind of knowledge and values are transmitted. Oldřiška Prokopová (TEMA Alumni, PhD. student of the Charles University) also enumerated different forms of intangible heritage and its construction as a historical phenomenon. Her doctoral research sets into focus Tuscany during the risorgimento period raising the question how the popular culture of the region was turned into the common heritage of an “imagined community”, i.e. of the Italian nation.

The lively discussions of the workshop showed that the topics of heritage and identity cannot be exhausted in a one-day long program and the juxtaposition of the two concepts carries the potential to provide a point of departure for further discourses that can attract audience even beyond the walls of academic institutions. Consequently, on 12 April, 2017, the Institute of World History and its partners organized a workshop again entitled “Identity Strategies: Heritage and Diversity”. The event took place in the well-tried attic of the Špork palace in Hybernská street in the framework of the “Diversity week” program series (10-13 April) organized by the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University that offered lectures, seminars, workshops, screenings, exhibitions, excursions, readings and concerts centered around the topic “City and Emotions”. The seven “English friendly” presentations of the workshop given by undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students revisited the concepts of identity, diversity and cultural heritage throughout different disciplines and methodologies and their appearance in various identification strategies.

Linda Kovářová (graduating doctoral student of the Seminar of General and Comparative History FF UK) presented in her talk various strategies applied throughout the identification and declaration of historical sites as UNESCO monuments and the ambiguities of their presentation as representatives of both universal and national values. She compared UNESCO monuments in the Czech Republic, Italy and Japan. Aurore Navarro (Post-PhD in Geography, CEFRES  –University of Lyon – France) spoke about her research on food quality and retail trade in Prague. She investigated how retailers of so-called quality food persuade their customers about their capacity to provide better or healthier nutrition and simultaneously offer them identities: the food divides and unifies, delimits and designates. She also highlighted how the city is developing between heritage, reinvention and innovation and advocated for the importance of studies on urban food retailers that can also open up new ways to approach the countryside, food production spaces and their links with city.

Martina Reiterová (TEMA alumna, FF UK) set into focus the questions why the rich Breton culture and tradition did not become the base for confident regional patriotism and what kind of identification strategies were chosen by the elites of Brittany.
Alena Křivánková  (MA student of the Seminar of General and Comparative History FF UK) took the audience to the era of the French Revolution and explored in her talk how the classification of something as  heritage can contribute to its preservation, but  simultaneously also facilitate its elimination from the way of modernizing endeavors. She sought answers particularly to the question why Occitan language did not become a cohesive element of southern French identity. Jan Krajíček (doctoral student of the Seminar of General and Comparative History FF UK) presented the technocratic dreams of František Radouš from the1930s, among which he also explicated the idea that an underdeveloped and peripheral region like the Vysočina region can be an ideal place for modernization and innovation.

Martin Tharp (doctoral student of historical sociology at FHS UK) gave his presentation on “Thomasius’ Legacy or the Language Paradox of European Universities”. He was interested in the development of national languages at the universities and the evolvement of their role as mediators between “the world” – formerly accessible mainly through the Latin language, nowadays rather in English – and the national communities in which they are located. The talk revolved around the dilemma of the universities – especially in “post-Habsburg” Central Europe – how to disseminate knowledge in society should they teach their students in internationally accessible English, even if that can lead to their isolation from the national society, or should they shape public discourse more intensely for which the usage of state language can be the most efficient way. Jakub Neumann (student of the Seminar of General and Comparative History FF UK) spoke about the transformations of the industrial landscape of Kladno in the 20th century, its different perceptions and its transformation into industrial heritage.

As the diversity of the presentations makes it well perceptible, heritage and identity are especially rich themes that can bring into dialogue various disciplines and can provide a fertile soil for further interdisciplinary projects.

See on the website of the Institue of World History