Selling heritage in the post-Ottoman Balkans : in, but not of Europe

Bryce, Derek and Causevic, Senija (2015) Selling heritage in the post-Ottoman Balkans : in, but not of Europe. In: Unsettling Colonial Modernity: Islamicate contexts in focus, 2015-04-24 - 2015-04-25, University of Alberta.

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Normalising subjectivities of ‘Europeanness’ and ‘Westernness’ have effects on the interpretation and consumption of cultural heritage sites in non-Western contexts. Here we examine the liminal space of the ‘post-Ottoman’ West Balkans, a European region with a significant built heritage and contemporary social legacy reflecting the c.500 year rule of the Muslim Ottoman dynasty where large numbers of people converted voluntarily to Islam but in which a syncretic system for the legal toleration and recognition of Christianity and Judaism was also implemented. Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH), Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia) and Albania are selected for contextual study in the West Balkans given that their social complexion is perhaps most obviously a representation of that syncretic legacy and because of their concentration of extant Ottoman heritage sites presentenced to the market. We note first that these countries’ heritage and tourism sectors anticipate and to some extent modify their interpretation to accommodate ‘Western’ consumers affectation of ‘surprise’ and ‘delight’ at the region’s religious diversity, constructing it in binary terms as a ‘remarkable’ crossroads between ‘West/East’ or ‘Christendom/Islam’. We then note occasional counter-discursive interventions by heritage practitioners to offer consumers an interpretive framework in which the syncretic legacy of the Ottoman period is an unremarkable consequence of contingent regional history. To understand why Ottoman heritage is often understood to be in but not of Europe, our analysis brings together and develops recent ‘Post-Saidian’ scholarship which interrogates ‘Europe’s’ discursive erasure of its Ottoman-Islamic-Oriental ‘self’ as well as recent work on the particularities of the syncretic Ottoman mode of social organisation in Europe and its legacy.