Contests of heritage and the politics of preservation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, K. S. Brown

Conclusion: the ethnography of built landscape

These three sites were selected for analysis because each represents a different kind of contemporary engagement with the material landscape. In Trstenik, a local community organisation is seeking to renovate a ruined church; within the town of Krushevo, a young married couple seek a more comfortable life; on the town's outskirts, a state tries to keep a monument meaningful. Each, additionally, represents a different interaction with narratives of the past. In the first, an old man speaks for a village community, driven out of their homes: his present activism symbolically marks their return. In the second, the narrative is that of a single family and its tragedies, in some sense redeemed by the material success of the present generation that the new house shows. At the third site, the narrative of a nation was put in place, and then buttressed by the inclusion of its charismatic leaders. Even then, though, the constructedness of the site and its narratives remained a salient aspect for townspeople who made their own responses to establish more locally meaningful means of recall.

The village of Trstenik, and the old house at the foot of the ski-lift in Krushevo, play roles in narratives of the past that are local in currency. They occupy a place in histories that appear to lie beyond any state rhetorics of national or socialist activism, highlighting instead stories of human suffering. In each case, though, the present seems to provide some form of closure to the narratives. The state monument in Krushevo, by contrast, seems by its design to have emphasised its distance from the events it commemorates. Its narrative is that of official event-history rather than the lived history of a community although it strives to lay the past to rest, it cannot.

These three sites around Krushevo represent different modes in which it could be argued that communities in the present engage in dialogues with a set of pasts. Local activism to produce and reproduce locality lies outside the control of states, and where government agency seeks to create meaning in landscapes, its initiatives may, if anything, be less successful than those that originate within a town's community.

The particular processes described here are perhaps specific to Krushevo. Its destruction in 1903 was sufficiently shocking and extensive to be reported in the Western press, and various regimes of the past twenty years have made particular investments in its status as a symbol of the nation's ordeals and ultimate success. But I would argue that almost any small town in the Balkans has, in the course of the last century, been through its share of transformations on the local scale. In Bosnia in recent years these have been violent and destructive. But such destruction, historically, has been preceded and succeeded by the less obvious but equally powerful processes of continuous construction and reconstruction. Almost one hundred years after the town was sacked and largely abandoned, the inhabitants of Krushevo continue to make and remake their environment. It is they, and not the interventions of any states, who preserve and produce locality in the material and narrated landscape.

Acknowledgements

The research on which this paper is based was assisted by a grant from the Joint Committee on Western Europe of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, with funds provided from the Ford and Mellon Foundations. I am grateful to Lynn Meskell and Yannis Hamilakis for their comments.

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]