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Dissonant cultural heritage: a modern and complex research area

This interview has been published on LabForCulture.

Dissonant cultural heritage: a modern and complex research area: A short Talk with Daniela Simeonova-Koroudjieva. This interview has been published on LabForCulture.

Dissonant cultural heritage: a modern and complex research area: A short Talk with Daniela Simeonova-Koroudjieva. This interview has been published on LabForCulture.

Daniela Simeonova-Koroudjieva is a PhD student in Cultural Heritage at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and at the same time she practices as an attorney-at-law at Sofia Bar Association. Daniela obtains Master in Law from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. She also holds master degree in Cultural Anthropology and bachelor degree in Cultural Studies from the same university. She has graduated from National Classical Lyceum “St. Constantine-Cyrill the Philosopher” (for ancient languages) in Sofia.

Daniela has numerous publications in the field of cultural heritage, legal cultural policy framework and nationalistic ideology. She has taken part in diverse research projects in the field of cultural policy and intercultural dialogue. Her professional interests are in the field of social, cultural and legal aspects of  cultural heritage policy.

1. Daniela, what was your main motivation to choose an academic and research career? How does this reflect your personality and professional dreams?

I am really happy of the opportunity to work on such a modern and complex research area– the traumatic topic of the dissonant cultural heritage in Bulgaria. My personal motivation is based on two things.  First of all I am a young researcher and I analyze from the viewpoint of the young people, formed in democratic and pluralistic society and in one more and more globalized world. This viewpoint is not heard enough, nor yet sufficiently covered by academic circles.

Second, cultural heritage field is very beneficial for interdisciplinary researches. It is extremely important to consider two aspects:  the legal framework and the socio-cultural factors. Without both of them, a  research in this field  wouldn’t be complete.  Cultural heritage, cultural rights (as a part of the fundamental human rights) and cultural policy are very much interconnected.

2. As a young researcher you specialize in several important dimensions of cultural policy. One of them is the situation with minorities, especially Gypsy communities and their integration to Bulgarian and European society. Could you outline few trends which on your opinion reflect this process? What should be done to efficiently work on changing the negative stereotypes about Gypsy minorities?

Few years ago, I took part in several research projects related to the situation of the gipsy minorities in Bulgaria. The problems with these communities in the former communist countries are quite similar, but they became more visible within the European context after few flagrant cases of deportation of gipsy immigrants from France back to Bulgaria and Romania. The cases were interpreted on the bases of human rights and anti-discrimination law and the right of the free movement within EU.  But of course, to change the long existing stereotypes related to gypsy communities is very hard. In fact, little is known on the fact that the movement and migration of the gypsy communities is a fundamental part of their way of life and habits. The former communist regime in Eastern Europe and the Balkans were in a way an “unnatural barrier” for stabilizing their natural nomadic lifestyle.

I am deeply convinced that most of the problems related to gypsy communities have one recipe for success: an education for everyone, which is of good quality and high accessibility. The education is the way for a happy and peaceful co-existence of minorities all over the world.

3. You were one of the finalists of the Cultural Policy Research Award (CPRA). What was the project you applied with? How was it connected with policy?

The main topic of my project was to study the problems with the management of the dissonant cultural heritage in Europe, and more concrete – the cultural heritage left after  the communist regimes. This includes the process of defining of this heritage and all problems related to its management. The dissonant heritage is not a new phenomenon for Europe. We could  see this after the Second World War, we can see this again in Eastern Europe after 1989 at the end of the Iron Curtain. The collapse of the totalitarian regime led to restitution of the prohibited memory. There is a dissonance. There is a conflict. This is why we talk about a dissonant heritage and the management of this heritage is really conflicting.

I think that we need to study the diverse European experiences related to the dissonant heritage. For example, the remembrance and commemoration of communism in countries formerly being behind the Iron Curtain has a different angle. For example, in Romania and Bulgaria the heritage of the communism is predominantly „unwanted” or “shameful” past, in contrast to the local phenomena known as “nostalgie” in the former East Germany.

The individual and collective memories are a basis for a new legal framework and management. We need to respond to the questions in what way this heritage is part of the cultural policy, how do we define it nowadays and what is the legal framework to manage it. We need to research our different experiences in cultural policy instruments related to dissonant heritage. This is why in my project last year, I suggested to examine conflicting experiences in the cultural policy and management of dissonant heritage in few European countries, existing in the last 20 years, and then to summarize ideas which might help us to move ahead in an adequate and more synchronized manner.

4. You are currently a PhD student at Sofia University “St.Kliment Ohridski”What is the theme of your PhD thesis? What is the main hypothesis which you focus on, and your main research methods?

The theme of my PhD thesis is about the usage and management of the dissonant cultural heritage and the problems to define and pre-define it in a local context. When we talk about dissonant heritage, there is an implicit analogy with the musical harmony and its classification of disharmonious combinations of sounds. Exactly the same is the situation with our cultural heritage left by the previous communist regime.

I research the relation between the issues of memories and dissonant heritage and the legal framework, in which we place its management and stewardship.  For example, the problems with the public property of the monuments and other objects are vivid and really complicated.  With regard to this, our cultural heritage conflicts reflect into a legal framework, which actually aims at regulating the policies for heritage.  Actually, Bulgaria has completed a normative act for cultural heritage for the first time in 2009, which regulates new procedures for identification, registration, etc. In spite of the new legal act, some sections remain regulated in other normative acts or stay without any law regulation. We expect practical challenges as a result of it.

My research methods are: content analysis of relevant academic studies on the totalitarian heritage; terrain work in order to discover problems with the management of the dissonant heritage and to study how people react to dissonance in their daily life (e.g. as a shame or nostalgia); content analysis of the legal framework and practice; collecting and making a short digital archive with pictures and other available materials of symptomatic cases.

5. What are the main challenges and opportunities in the process of elaborating your PhD thesis?

One of the challenges is the interpretation of the traumatic history and heritage. We all know that the facts of the history do not exist until a historian crates them. This elementary truth is valid for our heritage too.  By original etymological definition, “heritage” assumes the act of inheritance: each inheritance belongs to someone, and this someone decides if there will be an inheritance at all. This is because we talk about the “past through the eyes of the present”. This is the context of the latest public scandal in Bulgaria, provoked by the painting of the Soviet Army Monument with American commix heroes. The name of the composition was “In line with our time” and it is an illustration of our current time related to a concrete dissonant heritage.

So, the  heritage is a product of the present. The present selects an inheritance from an imagined past for current use and decided what should be passed to an imagined future.  The legal framework must respond to the actual interpretation.

Another challenge is the access to information, the systematization of the legal sources relevant to the heritage, the law practice and the theory in the field, because the research work done is not enough.

6. Since more than a year now, we have set up the Young Cultural Policy Researchers Forum online. Do you believe that online tools could help collaborative work between young researchers across Europe? Why? Why not?

The use of online tools progresses really quickly in order to correspond to the young cultural researchers’ needs and expectations. I believe that new channels of communication can help contacts without neglecting traditional ways of collaborative work. Otherwise we can lose important parts of the personal and emotional interactions.

7. What is your “non-professional” profile? What do you like to do in your free time: your hobby, affiliation to an art form, volunteering, others?

I have two children – Ema and Lora. They help me to open up again and see through their eyes that life is beautiful and fascinating. They invent new words; they have their own explanations about things…. My husband and love spending time with the girls: this is a unique daily experience.Besides this, I read legal literature and case law. I found out that the law is a tough and puzzling, but very interesting area to deal with. From Roman times until today, challenging the law is a really sophisticated intellectual provocation.


Author: Lidia Varbanova – Date: 22 Aug 2011, 18:25


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