Edited by Hamzah Muzaini and Claudio Minca
Hamzah Muzaini and Claudio Minca
Despite the burgeoning array of studies that have taken ‘heritage’ as their focus of concern, particularly in terms of how the past has been folded into present-oriented objectives, as well as the myriad politics associated with this, there has been comparatively lesser attention on heritage as enacted, practised and experienced on the ground, particularly those that take less visible forms and spearheaded by non-state agents either as producers or consumers of the said past. Even as these have emerged, they frequently do not go beyond romanticizing how these instances of ‘heritage-from-below’ (HFB) have served as checks to what Laurajane Smith refers to as formal ‘Authorized Heritage Discourse’ (AHD) even as there may be instances where the HFB produced not only reproduce dominant official discourses or are themselves motivated by the need to erase or forget the past. Not only does this oversight obscure alternative contexts in and through which the past may be valued within society today, it also misses out on (a more critical investigation of) the more quotidian practices, motivations and performances of heritage-making taking place especially within (in)formal spaces. In the light of this, the first part of the introductory chapter highlights the aims and rationale of the edited book in terms of (a) why there is a need to consider ‘heritage from below’ particularly from a more critical perspective, (b) how this agenda is situated and positioned within the literature on ‘heritage’ (within cultural geography, critical heritage studies and the wider social sciences), as well as (c) charting the trajectories that this may take. Following this, the rest of the chapter introduces the different case studies that make up the edited book with respect to how each speaks to the key trajectories of the book.
Ana Aceska and Claudio Minca
Since the Bosnian Wars (1992–95), the city of Mostar has been divided into two sides, East and West, which are dominated, respectively, by residents commonly defined as Bosniaks (Muslims) and Bosnian Croats (Catholics). The Yugoslavian war has left an indelible mark on the physical space of the city, leaving behind ruined residential areas, destroyed religious objects, bombed statues and empty squares. As such, Mostar has become the most challenging (and expensive) Bosnian project undertaken by many state and non-state actors, who aimed at rebuilding and reuniting the war-torn city. This chapter focuses on the ways in which non-institutional actors constructed a different idea of cultural heritage in contrast to the over-politicized idea of heritage that was dominant in the state narratives after the wars. It looks in particular at one exemplary case: the Bruce Lee statue, erected in 2004 by the members of the local non-profit Mostar Urban Movement, in order to promote the figure of this Chinese-American Hollywood martial arts movie star, whose films were very popular among the youth in the last decades of Yugoslavia. They envisioned the statue as a symbol of common values and shared taste among individuals of all different ethnic and religious backgrounds in Mostar and, as such, as a symbol of togetherness and community in the divided city. Despite the fact that the statue was welcomed by many city dwellers from both sides, it had a very short fate – a few days after being erected, the monument was vandalized and, consequently, removed. The chapter thus reflects on the ways in which and through which heritage from below is produced and practised by local actors in this context. More specifically, the following questions are asked: What makes the ‘heritage from below’ so vulnerable and unsustainable in contested cities? In what ways and contexts can ‘heritage from below’ be better mobilized for reconciliatory existence in contested cities?