Research Program

Contemporary debates about social values and orientation, aiming to provide new cultural and political foundations for the coherence of societies, usually recur to a concept which was and still is to be found in processes of nation building: the constitution of collective identities through an assumed unity of state, history, people, culture and heritage. We aim to argue that the concepts of identity and heritage are interdependent, and that their relations and meanings are neither stable nor permanent. Rather, in the context of community building, uncertain relationships and ambiguities are characteristic of the conflict-permeated fields of identification and appropriation of cultural heritage.

In a collaborative endeavor between the Technical University Berlin and the Bauhaus-University Weimar, the Research Training Group “Identity and Heritage” will conduct critical research about processes of social appropriation and interpretation as they relate to buildings, artifacts, historical sites, and other material elements of cultural tradition. Of primary interest is the relationship between the need for affirmation of the collective, and the appropriation of cultural heritage as it is mobilized both within the politics of history and identity as well as within a critical historization of the overall concept of identity construction as based in cultural heritage. This comprises research on new attempts to overcome existing identity concepts and their transformation within supranational constellations.

The involved scholars are from disciplines such as historic preservation, building and urban design history, architectural theory, architectural and art history, cultural and media studies, visual arts, landscape architecture and planning, urban planning, spatial planning and spatial research, city and regional sociology, planning and architectural sociology. They will link discourses which so far merely run parallel. As such, the group aims to develop a model for interdisciplinary critical cultural heritage studies and, on this basis, a cultural heritage theory that combines participatory and democratic heritage interpretation with the detailed observation and interpretation of the material qualities of objects. It is central to our approach to understand the objects of our research as being able to mediate through space and time between society, heirs and heritage. On the other hand it is necessary to maintain their historical semantic ascriptions without detaching current considerations about the interpretation and value of cultural heritage from their material and historical origin.