wars over heritage in the Balkans
Department of History and Theory of Culture
national cultures have been known quarreling over the regional heritage,
trying to present it as their exclusive national possession. Alexander
the Great, the Cyrillic alphabet, names of cities and even the
“authorship” of legends and popular songs have been among the causes
of conflict between Greeks and Macedonians, Macedonians and Bulgarians,
Bulgarians and Turks, etc. The digital turn has made it possible for
activists of nationalist or religious groups, but also for common
citizens to engage in the wars over heritage and symbols. The general
process of de-institutionalization that characterizes globalization is
more pronounced in this part of the world, thus the users seem to have
much more freedom in the production of identity narratives.
new identitarian folklore presents itself as based upon science, quotes
sources, develops arguments, even if the passionate character of
argumentation contradicts such pretention. It is the decentered
character of the digital world that produces the patchwork effect, where
a racist theory of the 19th century coexists with a moral principle
taken from Orthodox Christianity, a local poem is quoted as evidence
side by side with some an US genetic test.
The paper will be based on a field study of the new subpolitical (U.
Beck) mobilizations on the web, carried out during the last two years on
Balkan youths. Digital wars over heritage and identity seem to break out
suddenly and mobilize thousands of users. The occasion could be a film,
the idea to build a monument by some minority group, a provocative
contemporary artist, a bold statement of an expert (Are the Turks in the
Rhodops Islamized Bulgarians? Or are the ancient Bulgarians in fact a
leading emotion is hatred which makes the amateur historians look like a
subculture group. Passions spread over the web from platform to
platform, narratives and counter narratives are told and contested
travelling from facebook to you-tube, from you-tube to Wikipedia,
emerging in the traditional media, then dispersing into blogs and sites.
As to the form, digital wars use a large range of multimedia resources
in the attempt to convince including clips, music, caricature, collage;
it is often the acquisition of a new computer program (say, a morphing
tool) that constitutes a new argument in the heritage debate. As to the
content, the clashes between different ethnic, national, religious and
political groups are most often sexualized, expressing such notions as
prestige or ancienty in terms of sexual domination. Finally, the
narrative ends as unexpectedly as it had been launched to be replaced by
another “identity match”.
paper will not be so much interested in the political uses and abuses of
the digital identity narratives, it will rather reflect upon the way in
which they make it possible for common users to make sense of the global
world and find a place within it. The notion of folklore used above will
thus be seen in a Gramscian perspective as a “spontaneous
philosophy”, as an attempt to produce a non institutionalized
“conception of the world and life”.
Ditchev is professor of cultural anthropology at Sofia University,
Bulgaria, dpt of Cultural studies and writer. Research in political
cultures, national and urban identities. Doctoral studies in France,
habilitation in sociology. Among his works „Albania Utopia. Behind
closed Doors in the Balkans” (Paris 1996), „To give without loosing.
Exchange in the Imaginary of Modernity” (Paris 1997), “The Eros of
Identity” (in : “Balkans as Metaphor” MIT Press, Cambridge MA,
2002). “Der Skandal des Konsums” (in: Warenaesthetik, Suhrkamp,
2011, 196-2006). At present he directs a research program on the
relation between new media and citizenship practices. Some of his
publications can be consulted online in the online magazine Eurozine.
His last book is entitled “Citizens beyond places? New communications,
new borders, new habitats”, Sofia. Ditchev directs an MA in cultural
anthropology and an online journal of cultural studies seminarBG.