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The politics of heritage in the West Balkans: the evolution of nation-building and the invention of national narratives as a consequence of political changes

Lazarević, Dragana 2015. The politics of heritage in the West Balkans: the evolution of nation-building and the invention of national narratives as a consequence of political changes. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The growth of a nation-state in the 19th century led to the protection of heritage as a distinct discipline. Initially, the prime objective was physical protection and conservation of archaeological and architectural monuments valued for their aesthetic and historic importance. However, the 20th century practice of imposing nationalist ideas onto communities and cultures which share the same territory, but not religion and/or language, brought into prominence a discipline of heritage management. One of the main characteristics of heritage management is its interpretation in national terms which, when used for nation-building purposes, often becomes the subject of contested grand narratives; i.e. ethnically, religiously and socially divisive tool in the hands of political elites interested in securing and maintaining their powers. Historical changes of political systems and state ideologies, however, witnessed the lasting impact on the interpretation of heritage over la longue durée, almost always with negative outcomes. The Wars of Yugoslav Succession during the 1990s resulted not only in the creation of new nation-states, but also their own new national narratives and languages, often rooted in flagrant revisionism of the interpretation of historical sources and surviving heritage. This thesis examines the evolution of national narratives in five ex- Yugoslav republics and Albania from the time of their individual inception until the present. It employs chronologically juxtaposed nation-building processes in the observed states and points to the differences in interpretation which usually coincided with changes of political systems. It also highlights the contemporary interpretations of the heritage as understood by both local and international researchers and publicists, affected by the surrounding political atmosphere. It explores the destruction, vandalism, and “culturcide” and their condemnations and justifications by the media and biased scholarship. The thesis also points to the negative influence of the external political factors in heritage management through the extensive production of poorly and/or partially researched publications. Finally, it concludes that the (re)interpretation of heritage is a recurring process, which will be employed every time when the balance of power in Europe changes and almost always with detrimental consequences for the local population.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DR Balkan Peninsula
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 31 March 2016
Last Modified: 13 May 2022 10:02

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