Politics of Memory and Oblivion: The case of Beslan

In late 2020, students taking part in the “Politics of Memory and Oblivion” course, a part of the Cultural Heritage Masters programme, created blog posts and podcasts on the subject of difficult heritage. The online course was open to domestic and exchange students at the University of Helsinki, and additionally open to students in the UNA Europa network of universities. In the coming weeks we showcase some of their work.

The following podcast and introduction are by Alina Tibilova, Anna Heikkilä and Minna Taikina-aho (all University of Helsinki) and Hanna Martynenko (Jagiellonian University in Krakow).

We made a podcast about the memorial of the Beslan school attack in 2004. Here we’re discussing the 2020 state of the gym building ruins from the perspectives of ‘dark’ heritage and embodied collective trauma. It was important for us to raise this theme because today’s condition is quite controversial. We will be grateful if you listen to the podcast, but be prepared for the fact that listening and talking about this topic is always very emotionally difficult.

Listen to Podcast



Recent new open access article on professional and amateur engagements with WWI heritage in Western Flanders

A new article involving Cultural Heritage Studies researchers from the University of Helsinki was published just before Christmas and is open access.
Unexploded ordnance collected during excavations by De Diggers at the football field at Langemark on 8 April 2006 (photograph Pol Lefever, courtesy of the In Flanders Fields Museum archive).

Associate Professor Suzie Thomas and Dr Pieterjan Deckers (Århus University) have recently published an open access article titled “‘And now they have taken over’: hobbyist and professional archaeologist encounters with the material heritage of the First World War in western Belgium” in International Journal of Heritage Studies.

The abstract for the new article, which stems from research carried out in Western Flanders during a research visit to Vrije Universiteit Brussel by Thomas and a collaboration with Deckers as part of the Lapland’s Dark Heritage project, reads as follows:

Since almost immediately after the fighting ended, the

First World War (WWI) sites of conflict in Western Flanders, Belgium, have attracted attention from visitors and collectors. Heritage management questions came to the fore especially in the run-up to WWI’s centenary years (2014–2018), and professional archaeologists representing the authorities in Flanders had already begun to take a greater interest in the war’s archaeological remains. The activities of hobbyist amateurs, particularly metal detectorists, came under greater scrutiny. In this article, we explore the perspectives of local hobbyist enthusiasts and heritage professionals in the context of changing attitudes towards and values associated with the material heritage of the WWI in Western Flanders. We reflect upon the tensions that emerge when different interest groups clash, the disagreements between professional and amateur interests, and also upon the particular context of conflict heritage when there are numerous interests and stakeholders involved.

Full reference information:

Suzie Thomas & Pieterjan Deckers (2020) ‘And now they have taken over’: hobbyist and professional archaeologist encounters with the material heritage of the First World War in western Belgium, International Journal of Heritage Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2020.1858142