Radical Heritage: Tracing Resistance in (Post)Socialist Europe

International Workshop, 9–10 September 2022

Zagreb, Croatia

How do people make sense of wartime remains in today's societies?
How do heritage professionals mediate traces of war in community-based projects?
How do contemporary debates such as epistemic decolonization, new authoritarianisms and nationalisms influence the relationship between heritage professionals and communities?

There is a growing interest for the materiality of social struggles and modern warfare among heritage practitioners across the world, especially in contexts in which materiality opens new opportunities to discuss memories and narratives that have been marginalized or silenced in the public sphere. However, the study of recent past and its materiality is still contentious in many academic contexts, such as post-socialist Europe.

The October Revolution, the workers' struggles, and the Second World War have been extensively documented and memorialized in socialist Europe. Former socialist countries pioneered documentation practices in the research or memorialization of modern warfare, often focused on the commemoration and musealization of official wartime narratives. Furthermore, the materiality of war and antifascist resistance was an important component of artistic and architectural practices across postwar Europe. These practices aimed at a new understanding of the past, and new ways of memorializing wartime events by emphasizing the affective potential of sites and objects.

In some socialist countries, such as Yugoslavia, traces of war encouraged the creativity of heritage professionals (historians, art historians, ethnographers), and stakeholders (museums, local communities). This interest strongly influenced heritage policies and concepts, as well as the aesthetics of memorial structures commemorating the Second World War. However, after the collapse of socialism, political interests of heritage authorities in former socialist countries switched towards different, often opposing historical episodes and narratives. These narratives aimed at strengthening national identities in opposition to the socialist projects. Traces of antifascist resistance and social struggles of the 20th century were challenged, abandoned, or destroyed, creating yet another layer of political and social violence that deserves further investigation. The ongoing war in Ukraine exposed multifaceted and contradictory narratives built on the heritage of the Second World War, which include the mobilization of antifascist discourse to legitimize nationalism, and the destruction of wartime memorials.

Participants of this WG2 workshop explore the role of materiality in the construction of heritage discourses grounded on the Second World War, and other 20th century revolutionary, military and social conflicts. We are interested in surveying recent developments in the multidisciplinary field of critical heritage studies, and in exchanging experiences across different methodological traditions with a focus on the concept of trace in the context of modern conflicts. This should encourage us to rethink the role of heritage professionals in communities that are dealing with the legacies of recent conflicts or exposed once again to the threat of unrestricted violence. With this workshop we want to explore the ways in which we can critically mobilize the traces of conflict to support and advance claims for social justice.

TRACTS COST Action (20134) on "Traces as Research Agenda for Climate Change, Technology Studies, and Social Justice"