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14.00  Dynamics of Scale in the Making of a European Cultural Heritage in EU Heritage Policy

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The trans- and supranational dimensions of heritage have become topical in a new way in Europe, as the idea of a European cultural heritage has been more and more frequently referred to in the political discourses of the European Union and as the European Commission has recently launched several initiatives which aim to make the idea of a European cultural heritage more concrete. The idea of a common European cultural heritage emphasizes transcending local, regional, and national interpretations of history and culture and transforming cultural heritage into a “common good,” symbolically belonging to all Europeans, and a source of a European cultural identity. This idea, however, faces various challenges in Europe, where narrations of history differ greatly and where global cultural flows and the movement of people within and across borders have increased the inner pluralism of the continent. The idea of a European cultural heritage is rarely explicitly defined in the political discourses of the EU, since explicit pronouncements on what makes heritage “European” might lead to various conflicts and problems regarding, for example, the symbolic or factual ownership of heritage. The political rhetoric in the EU heritage initiatives forms EU-level “authorized heritage discourse,” which is thoroughly political in its attempts to create its objective, that is, a common European cultural heritage, by ignoring the ambiguity and controversiality included in the idea and simultaneously retaining its flexibility for various political purposes. Scale has a major impact on attempts to understand the EU-level “authorized heritage discourse” and how the idea of a European cultural heritage is produced in it. 

Cultural geographers have emphasized how both tangible and intangible heritages always occur somewhere and thus are spatial. The spatiality of heritage simultaneously turns it into both a territorial and a scalar phenomenon. The political rhetoric of the EU heritage initiatives includes both explicit and implicit scalarly structured meanings and power relations. As in other EU cultural initiatives, a “European dimension” is produced in the political rhetoric of the EU heritage initiatives in relation to various territorial scales—local, regional, national, and global—either by constructing the European dimension from them or by defining it as opposite to them. David Harvey (2014) has emphasized how the relationship between the idea of heritage and scale can be an open, plural, and relational process detached from physical distance, proximity, or essentialist claims to territorial hierarchy. Indeed, the political rhetoric of the EU heritage initiatives also includes discussions in which the meanings of heritage are multi-layered and “multi-scalar” and in which scalarity refers not only to territoriality but to complex social and cultural divisions. 

This paper will focus on the dynamics of scale in the making of a European cultural heritage in the political rhetoric of the EU heritage initiatives. The main questions will be: What kinds of territorialities and scales are discussed in the political rhetoric of the EU heritage initiatives? What kinds of territorial and scalar relations are formed in this rhetoric? How is the idea of a European cultural heritage formed in this rhetoric through territoriality and scale and with what political effects? The paper will aim to answer these questions by investigating political documents of recent EU heritage initiatives, such as the European Heritage Label, using a qualitative content analysis that will utilize approaches from discourse theory, speech act theory, and linguisticality of politics. The theoretical framework of these interdisciplinary investigation stems from cultural geography, critical heritage studies, and political science.
This paper is coauthored with Katja Mäkinen.

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