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12.00  How Does Traditional Workmanship Transform the Field of Heritage Conservation?

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9:00, Dimanche 5 Juin 2016 (30 minutes)

This paper will reveal the power games within the field of heritage conservation in Røros, Norway. A closer examination of the “reconstruction” of an outhouse building at Kaffestuggu courtyard was performed by using the methodological and theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu. His notion of structuration and the awareness that social structures are always incompletely solidified, in struggle and tension between one another, and therefore constantly changing, helped to clarify the reasons and methods used in order to keep the authoritative field of heritage conservation well established. 

Røros, a small Norwegian town, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980 after the closure of the mining industry. The outbuilding project was launched in 1994 after the ICOMOS report that stated that “traditional techniques and materials should be given priority in new works.” Mostly state funded, the outbuilding project succeeded in creating the subfield of traditional workmanship. These efforts were recently crowned by winning the Europa Nostra Prize in 2015. 

However, the case of “reconstructing” the outbuilding at Kaffestuggu courtyard revealed that the offspring of the field of heritage conservation—the subfield of traditional workmanship— is rebelling against its founders in a tacit way, using a carpenter’s language by leaving messages expressed in the general appearance of the traditionally crafted building and in the very detailing of it. The outbuilding was “reconstructed” despite the objections of the authoritative field of heritage conservation, which follows the established policy rooted in the Venice Charter: “any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp.” The interviewed agents in the field of heritage conservation would have rather appreciated a building of modern design and were concerned about the traditionally crafted outbuilding as it is “hardly readable today for common people.” Moreover, the “reconstruction” was poorly founded on historical sources, therefore, the result was negatively entitled as a pastiche. At the same time the conducted survey displayed that the “reconstruction” project at Kaffestuggu courtyard in the “old style” attained positive evaluation by the general public—neighbours and other local owners of protected heritage properties, craftsmen, and even local officers of heritage protection. 

The depicted clash of opposing valuations is analyzed by invoking Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical model. In order to understand the logic of practice Bourdieu proposes to use the notion of field which helps to frame a relational analysis. Various fields within a society construct their own particular beliefs and values as means of reinforcing the field’s cohesion, and these fields compete for the power in society to dictate what is legitimate. The legitimate conservation practices performed by the agents in the field of heritage conservation were questioned by the field’s own product—the subfield of traditional workmanship. The subfield began to plough its way towards higher autonomy by operating in the open market and by applying the traditional workmanship in a creative way in order to highlight the controversial precedent conservation practices. The ranking of the recognized cultural capital within the field of heritage conservation has also altered as the knowledge and experience in practical implementation of traditional workmanship gained a higher status. 

This paper will demonstrate how the field of heritage conservation must constantly adapt to the changing circumstances in order to maintain the legitimizing position. The analysis conducted will also exemplify the application of Bourdieuean conceptual tools by revealing him as a theorist of change and, will illustrate how his structuration theory could be used in studying reconstructions and transformations of the field of heritage conservation.

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