Ill-Defined ‘Heritage’: Exploring Thessaloniki’s Selective Agenda

By Rodanthi Tzanelli.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper comprises an aspect of a (British Academy) project on evolving understandings of heritage in the Northern urban centre of Thessaloniki, Greece. The paper reviews politically motivated definitions of ‘heritage’ based on erasures or commoditisation of history, suggesting that such modifications conform to a European meta-narrative that prioritises Christian cosmological themes of suffering and spirituality. The ways these histories clash or collude with the living and evolving cultures of the city is explored.
The author enacts a form of death travel (“thanatotourism”) in some of Thessaloniki’s inner areas to examine the role conceptions of “heritage” (Jewish, Ottoman, Turkish and Asia Minor) have in the production of the city’s global tourist image. Priority is given to an analysis of the author’s methodological tools – as a native ethnographer, an “auteur” and a tourist. It is suggested that these critical methodologies do not exist totally outside the cultural frame she analyses as a Western professional. Given its historic associations with Orientalist geographies (as a Northern Balkan city that joined Greece in the early twentieth century only to be swamped by refugees from the crumbling Ottoman empire), Thessaloniki’s multiculturalist archive is the site of historical trauma. It is significant that its once thriving “communities of practice”, exemplified by crafts such as those of chair-making or complementary therapy (as in the production of herbal remedies and concoctions), do not partake in the city’s tourist image. This has often encouraged the development of introversion or competitions that feed into nationalist agendas and play in the hands of those systemic centres (regional, national and transnational) that shape the country’s official historical records. Clashes of voluntary and involuntary tourist mobility are placed under sociological scrutiny – as a complex offshoot of regional policies, national miscommunications and systemic impositions at European level.

Keywords: Christianity, Communities of Practice, Cosmology, Diaspora, Europe, Heritage, History, Populism

Global Studies Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.193-218. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 17.971MB).

Dr. Rodanthi Tzanelli

Lecturer in Sociology, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK

Rodanthi Tzanelli is lecturer in Sociology and deputy director, Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies, at the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, UK. She works on globalisation, the politics and ethics of cultural industries (with particular reference to cinematic tourism), national identity and nationalism and representations in film. She is the author of The Cinematic Tourist: Explorations in Globalization, Culture and Resistance (Routledge, 2007), Nation-Building and Identity in Europe: The Dialogics of Reciprocity (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008), The ‘Greece’ of Britain and the ‘Britain’ of Greece (VDM, 2009) and Cosmopolitan Memory in Europe’s Backwaters: Rethinking Civility (Routledge, 2011).

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