Panel Discussion “Negotiating Cultural Heritage. Making, Sustaining, Breaking, Sharing”
On 24 April 2017, more than 80 participants took part in the conversation “Negotiating Cultural Heritage. Making, Sustaining, Breaking, Sharing” at the Bode Museum in Berlin. It was convened by the research program Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices, the Cluster of Excellence „Asia and Europe in a Global Context“, the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, the Forum Transregionale Studien, the Max Weber Stiftung and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Drawing on the discussions of the annual conference “Making, Sustaining, Breaking: The Politics of Heritage and Culture” in Heidelberg in October 2016, the conversation addressed the following questions: Who decides what constitutes cultural heritage? What does cultural heritage mean in different national and regional contexts? Who can claim it as theirs, and who decides how it is preserved, displayed, or restored? How to share cultural heritage?
The event started with an introductory session. Subsequently, a WeberWorldCafé provided space for a conversation on different aspects of cultural heritage between the speakers and the audience, as noted in the Science Reports. Finally, a panel of four experts chaired by Hannah Baader (Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz/Art Histories) took up some of the main issues of the previous debates.
The first panelist Ralph Bodenstein (German Archaeological Institute) is a former researcher at the Orient Institute Beirut and the coordinator of the project “Stunde Null: A Future for the Time after the Crisis” that aims to train Syrian specialists and craftsmen to restore heritage sites that have been destroyed by war. Ralph Bodenstein pointed out the need of new structures for sharing knowledge. According to him, heritage should not be discussed as an academic issue only, but also in connection to power relations. Hence, one of the challenges for researchers and practitioners in the field of cultural heritage is to develop more inclusive approaches to share heritage in order to transgress social and national boundaries.
This thought was taken up by the art historian Monica Juneja (Chair for Global Art History at the Cluster of Excellence „Asia and Europe in a Global Context“ Heidelberg/ Academic Advisory Board Forum Transregionale Studien). Her research interests include practices of visual representation, the disciplinary trajectories of art history, religious identities and cultural practices in South Asia and modern France. Monica Juneja organized her comment around the idea of sharing, considering heritage as a transcultural concept. She highlighted that sharing assumes a sense of community that should be understood in the sense of an unstable and changeable ‘we’. Moreover, it presumes spaces and practices (material, discursive and ceremonial), like digitization. That being said, she pointed out that the prevailing concepts of sharing need to be rethought.
The third panelist was Stefan Weber, Director of the Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. He is specialized in architectural history of Syria in Ottoman times and chaired several international and interdisciplinary projects. He is a former staff member of the Orient Institute Beirut. In his panel statement Stefan Weber argued that cultural artefacts are inevitably tied to complex realities and processes that emerge from their historical, cultural and social backgrounds and the way they come to a museum. Therefore, they are intrinsically tied to questions of identities which are often conflicting. Weber stressed the need for concepts and practices that carefully deal with objects from other societies and take into account both community groups and objects in transfer.
Finally, Gerhard Wolf concluded the panel with some conceptual considerations. Gerhard Wolf is director at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz and academic director of the research program Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices. His expertise covers the Mediterranean and global art histories, sacred topographies in an interreligious perspective, concepts and practices of images and things in a transcultural perspective, as well as the interrelations between artistic and scientific world views. In his comment, he pointed out the varying notions of heritage in different languages, bringing up the question of a shared language in the debates on cultural heritage. Furthermore, he introduced the concept of the global relocation of cultural heritage. Turning out the conflicting developments of globalization and the growing importance of localisms, he asked to rethink the idea of a spatially bound memory.
The following interviews and contributions have emerged from the event:
Aida Murtic and Anna Sawerthal (2017). Reports: Negotiating Cultural Heritage. Making, Sustaining, Breaking, Sharing. A Conversation