“Negotiating Cultural Heritage. Making, Sustaining, Breaking, and Sharing. A Conversation.”

Architecture, artworks, crafted objects, texts, music, as well as sites, places, sounds and tastes are cultural products that can contribute to a sense of community, belonging and identity. Objects of the past are deemed worthy to be stolen and reclaimed, to be exhibited and reconstructed, to be researched and collected, or even to be destroyed. As such, cultural goods or “things” are reference points for narratives of heritage and community. They are protected by international conventions; simultaneously, they are instruments of communitarian or even national politics which might be claimed by different communities or actors. Hence, cultural heritage is a concept of complex negotiations that is not devoid of conflict.

In Syria and Iraq, buildings and even entire historical cities playing a central role in terms of cultural heritage are being destroyed, while in other places cultural goods and sites are rebuilt, restored, and, in that way, altered. Museums and other institutions act as keepers or “care-takers” of heritage objects; although archives of cultural heritage can also be non-institutional. More recently, the concept of “shared heritage” has become crucial, though not unquestioned.
Drawing on the discussions of the conference “Making, Sustaining, Breaking: The Politics of Heritage and Culture” that took place in October 2016 in Heidelberg, we want to debate the following questions at this year’s WeberWorldCafé, entitled “Negotiating Cultural Heritage. Making, Sustaining, Breaking, and Sharing”: What does cultural heritage mean in different national and regional contexts? Who can claim it as theirs and who decides what constitutes cultural heritage, decides how it is preserved, displayed, or restored? Should museums and other cultural institutions act as preservationists, explorers, or mediators of this heritage? How do archeological institutions that excavate and research figure in this scenario? Can their work and the practices of museums relating to cultural heritage be “decolonized”? Which other forms of cultural heritage could be included in museal representations and archaeological practices?  In the 21st century, could digitalization allow us to sustain cultural goods, make them more accessible and guarantee their long-term preservation?  How to share cultural heritage?

Grafitto in Amsterdam. Picture: Georges Khalil.

Based on selected examples from different global regions we want to examine the issue of situating cultural heritage between preservation and destruction, and ideologization and reconstruction from transregional, historical, and other present perspectives. As hosts for topical tables, we invite acknowledged experts, who will discuss key themes with our other participants.

The Event “Negotiating Cultural Heritage. Making, Sustaining, Breaking, and Sharing. A Conversation” will take place on April 24, 2017 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Bodemuseum in Berlin. A corresponding Panel Discussion on the same topic will start at 7 p.m. at the same location. The event is arranged by a cooperation of 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.

The Format
At the WeberWorldCafé, scholars, experts, intellectuals or public personalities from different disciplines and regions come together and discuss one key issue in a relaxed, coffee-house-resembling atmosphere. Different experts take on the role as table hosts – usually as a pair – and share their knowledge with the participants, who engage in the conversation as equals, attending three subsequent tables during the event. After a discussion of 25 to 30 minutes, the participants move to another table of their choice. In that way, the guests can join three unique discussions on three different aspects of the overall theme, which will be enriched by the participants’ knowledge gained in the previous discussions held at other tables. Since experts and participants have different backgrounds, everyone brings a different set of pre-existing knowledge, interests and perspectives to the table(s). The goal of this event format is to encourage and connect fresh perspectives and new insights. The event closes with a summary of all the important results and conclusions of the day providing space for continued informal debates.


Tables and Hosts:

Table 1: Cultural Heritage, Trauma, and Manipulation

Table 2: Art and Culture Re-oriented

Table 3: Museums. A Cultural Institution and its Critique

Table 4: Museums, Immigration and Interculturalism

Table 5: Digitalizing Cultural Heritage

Table 6: Situations of Crisis and Emergency

Table 7: Decolonizing Archaeology and Cultural Heritage

Table 8: Cultural Heritage as Civilizing Mission

Table 9: Shared Heritage

Panel Discussion (7 p.m.)

The table talks will be followed by a public discussion on the question of negotiating cultural heritage that will take up some of the issues discussed at the WeberWorldCafé.

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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