Censored? Conflicted Concepts of Cultural Heritage (Fifth Annual Conference)

25.-26. November 2021, Bauhaus University Weimar

In recent years, the terms ‘cancel culture,’ ‘political correctness,’ ‘call-out culture,’ and ‘censorship’ have dominated debates about freedom of speech and scientific research, discussions about memorial sites and the removals of monuments as well as critiques of museum exhibition practices. During the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, England, and Belgium, protesters were faced with allegations of censorship, moralism, and iconoclasm after monuments to Confederate generals and slave traders became a central focus of the protests. Similar accusations had already begun circulating in 2018, as the #MeToo movement triggered a critical reassessment of artworks on public display, and several exhibitions worldwide were closed, postponed, or had individual exhibits removed.

The concept of censorship can be filled with very different meanings and appropriated by different interest groups. In the narrow sense, it describes only the structural and state-defined form of information control. In contemporary cultural debates, however, censorship is understood much more broadly as a discursive instrument used in different forms of social negotiation (e.g., regulation, moderation, boundary shifting, repression) in dealing with cultural heritage.

Heritage processes are negotiation processes, because the handling and interpretation of a collectively shared heritage is permanently contested. In the process, there are omissions, rewritings, or additions; not only of what constitutes a heritage object but also its social construction. Dissent and conflict are constitutional elements of this negotiation of material and intangible constructions of heritage and identity. By reinvestigating such heritage constructions through the concept of censorship, it offers the possibility to look at what is positively established as heritage or identity. On the other hand, this perspective also directs the focus to what is considered negative, or undesirable, what is suppressed, excluded, rejected or prevented.

The fifth annual conference of the DFG Research Training Group 2227 “Identity and Heritage” aims to contribute to the understanding and historization of censorship debates, the contexts out of which they arose, their dissemination, and the actors involved. Patterns of argumentation and perception associated with the censorship debates are examined from the perspective of the history of discourse, conflict, media and theory.

Conference Location

Bauhaus-University Weimar
Library Building, Steubenstr. 6 (Audimax)

Join our digital conference via Livestream (Zoom)


25. November 2021

Welcome and Introduction

Panel I: Identity and Heritage: Censorship Debates as a Constitutive Element (Moderation: Svenja Hönig, Berlin)

Arnold Bartetzky (Leipzig)
Zensur von unten? Aktuelle Auseinandersetzungen um unbequeme Denkmäler und umstrittene Kunstwerke

Rachel Györffy (Budapest)
Zwischen Ikonoklasmus und Nostalgie: Rekonstruktivismus in Mittel- und Osteuropa. Kuratorische Praxis, Cancel Culture oder Musealisierung? Eine Annäherung

Klara Ullmannova (Prague)
›Post-war‹ Architecture in Czechia as Heritage. Present-day Discourses

Lunch break

Panel II: Discourse and Differentiation: A Long-Term Perspective on the Concept of Censorship (Moderation: Oliver Trepte, Weimar)

14:20 Lukas Rathjen (Zurich)
Nachkriegsverschiebungen. Humanistische Rhetorik zwischen Erbe und Zensur

15:00 Anatol Rykov (St. Petersburg)
Censorship and Global Art Theory

15:40 Natalie Reinsch (Hannover)
»… der gnädige Schleier des Vergessens …«. Der Zensurstreit zwischen Horst Brandstätter und der Stadt Stuttgart im Jahr 1987 als Aushandlungsprozess um das mit der Person Hanns Martin Schleyer verschränkte Erbe des Linksterrorismus und des Nationalsozialismus

Conclusion Day 1

26. November 2021

Come together and Introduction

Panel III: Power to Interpret and Dissent: Conflicting Heritage Constructs (Moderation: Zvi Efrat, Tel Aviv)

Friederike Landau-Donnelly (Nijmegen)
Ghostly Heritage: Exploring Conflictual Sense(s) of Place in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Anna Angelica Ainio (London)
Leave Them as They Are: The Disfigurement of Robert E. Lee Monument

Nasima Islam (Calcutta)
Formation of the ›Miya‹: Examining how censored identities are talking back in the Indian state of Assam

Lunch break

Panel IV: Situation and Preservation: Institutional Practices (Moderation: Darja Jesse, Berlin)

14:00 Patricia Lenz (Zurich)
After »Freedom of Expression?« – Japanese Artists Caught Between Nationalism and Pre-Emptive Obedience

Irakli Khvadagiani (Tiflis)
Owning the Past – to Control the Present. Post Soviet Know-how in Georgia

Coffee break

Panel discussion: Censorship and Public Spaces in Times of Monument Removals (Moderation: Jochen Kibel, Berlin)

with Kristina Leko (Berlin), Nnenna Onuoha (Harvard/Potsdam), Niloufar Tajeri (Braunschweig)

17:30 Conclusion Day 2


COVID-19 Protection Concept

The Infection Protection Act (Bauhaus-University, valid on 28/10/2021) provides for the conference room (Audimax) to be occupied by a maximum of 45 participants. The conference will be held in accordance with the 3G+ rules and the Rahmenhygieneplan der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (PDF, german).

All Lectures in detail



10:40 AM

Arnold Bartetzky (Leipzig): Bottom-up Censorship? Current disputes about dissonant monuments and controversial works of art

In recent years, attacks on despised monuments in the public space have increased, even in liberal societies of the West. At the same time, campaigns against the display of artworks deemed offensive in museums and galleries are growing. Both have a tradition that probably goes back as far as the history of art production itself. In the past, the reflex to remove monuments that do not conform to the political norms of the present day was particularly a characteristic of authoritarian regimes. This is even more true of interventions to restrict artistic freedom in the name of morality or ideology. In various parts of the world, such mechanisms of authoritarian control over visual culture continue to operate.In the countries of the West, on the other hand, demands for the regulation of memory culture, art production and exhibition practices are predominantly […]


Arnold Bartetzky


11:20 AM

Rachel Győrffy (Budapest): Between Iconoclasm and Nostalgia. Reconstructivism in Central and Eastern Europe. Curatorial Practice, Cancel Culture or Museumization? An Approach

The often cited and debated contradictory and yet almost persistent rejection of late modernist built heritage is a peculiar phenomenon and can be found in former Western Europe as well as in the former Soviet states. Differing societies often react with a similar degree of incomprehension and rejection of the late modernist architecture. The reasons for this rejection could however not be more diverse.First and foremost, these buildings are often perceived as ugly. As well as pointing to a category of aesthetics, this also indicates that the architecture is considered to be unpleasant, or misconceived. This judgment can be understood as a psychological projection, as a kind of defense mechanism, which subconsciously projects undesirable and difficult feelings or characteristics onto other people or objects, thus also onto architecture. One’s own unprocessed, problematic, sometimes even traumatic experience with this past is […]


Rachel Győrffy


12:00 AM

Klára Ullmannová (Prague): “Post-war” Architecture in Czechia as Heritage. Present-day Discourses

This contribution attempts to outline the discursive mechanisms deployed in the heritage process and construction of “post-war” architecture as (not) heritage by the various actors in the process. In what ways do they operate? What kinds of values do different actors prefer to uphold, and does this lead to “censoring” of other values, and, ultimately, of heritage of a certain period? Architecture of the second half of the 20th century in Czechia has begun to take part in the heritage process more actively during the last fifteen years. Since then, dozens of such buildings were formally recognized and legally protected by being included on the heritage list by the Ministry of Culture. Simultaneously, however, numerous other “post-war” buildings deemed valuable by members of the expert community were either rejected or even demolished despite their appeals to the Ministry. Most often, such […]


Klára Ullmannová


14:20 PM

Lukas Rathjen (Zürich): Postwar Shifts. Humanist rhetoric between heritage and censorship

The silence that defines the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1950s and 1960s has become a topos that is increasingly put into question by historians. But no doubt remains that there was silence around Auschwitz, so the research question can only be how and in what way one can specify this silence. Auschwitz was the most frightening ‘secret’ of the postwar period and is part of a much more complex ‘unwelcome’ heritage, which the Federal Republic and its citizens were confronted with. Not only a painful and lasting memory was handed down in 1945 but also a largely fascist population that was to bear the new democratic state: A state whose legacy was also that it could no longer be a nation but had to be a society. A state which was also charged, in its new function as […]


Lukas Rathjen


15:00 PM

Anatol Rykov (St. Petersburg): Censorship and Global Art Theory

There are numerous reasons to assume that censorship has to become one of the central categories of the future art studies. The problems of style as a collective unconscious or individualistic expression should be reformulated into the questions of fashion, rivalry, censorship and social mimicry. Since the very beginnings of scientific art theory different conceptions (more pragmatic or more idealistic) struggled for the adequate version of censorship. It became a question of polemics between the Vienna and St. Petersburg’s schools of art criticism but the arguments of the Russian scholars were reintroduced much later by Ernst Gombrich during the Cold War period in London. Of course the Russian theorists of the pre-revolutionary period were greatly impressed and scared by the populist movements of their time that finally became part of Bolshevik mythology. They compared these processes with an ideology of […]


Anatol Rykov


15:40 PM

Natalie Reinsch (Hannover): “... the merciful veil of oblivion ...”. The censorship dispute between Horst Brandstätter and the city of Stuttgart in 1987 as a negotiation process around the legacy of left-wing terrorism and National Socialism intertwined with the person of Hanns Martin Schleyer

On the occasion of the opening of a room installation on Napoleon Bonaparte and Georg Kerner in 1987, the Stuttgart author Horst Brandstätter (1950-2006) criticized the naming of the Hanns Martin Schleyer Hall: “Swabian Jacobins are not given a monument in this country. Recently, monuments have even been created more as an expression of hysteria. (…) For example, Stuttgart’s hall bears a name that – for all its tragedy – would be better served by the merciful veil of oblivion.”Brandstätter was alluding here to the Nazi past of Hanns Martin Schleyer, the murdered president of the German employers’ association. The director of the Gallery of the City of Stuttgart, Dr. Johann-Karl Schmidt, shortened the contribution for the catalog by the passage in question, to which Brandstätter objected and appealed to Mayor Rommel’s “sovereign liberality.” Rommel decided that the catalog would be published without Brandstätter’s contribution, […]


Natalie Reinsch


10:20 AM

Friederike Landau-Donnelly (Nijmegen): Ghostly Heritage: Exploring Conflictual Sense(s) of Place in Vancouver's Chinatown

In this exploratory talk, I examine the spectral contours of cultural heritage – I set out to meet the multiple ghosts of the past who dance in present urban spaces and memories. I reach out to encounter histories, herstories, their stories that have been invited and written into urban public space, but also those that have appeared unsolicitedly. By looking at recently commissioned public art pieces and murals, in particular, in the neighborhood of Chinatown in Vancouver, BC, Canada, located on the traditional lands of the First Nations of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh, I examine murals’ spatial, temporal and affective politics as ghostly cultural heritage. Such contested cultural fabric is made of bodies, places and things, smells, sounds, living/vibrant and deceased/seemingly inert matter. By drawing together notions from critical museum studies (Sternfeld 2018), performative accounts on memory (Munteán, Plate & […]


Friederike Landau-Donnelly


11:00 AM

Anna Angelica Ainio (London): Leave Them as They are. The Disfigurement of Robert E. Lee Monument

This paper is a response to the ongoing contestation on the statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond. Protesters belonging to the Black Lives Matter group renewed the already burning issue of Confederate Statues, calling for their removal. Arguments pro or against removal have transformed the debate into a dichotomy. My paper suggests a third way of thinking about this debate through the example of Pasquino, a Hellenistic marble unearthed in 16th century Rome that became a tool for the public to express their voices through attaching pamphlets onto it. Pasquino raises questions on conservation, subverting its traditional conception as a practice focused on restoring the object to its original state. Moreover, the defacement of Pasquino ties to the notion of detournement developed by the Situationist International group in Paris during the 1960s. Detournement holds that a work of art […]


Anna Angelica Ainio


11:40 AM

Nasima Islam (Calcutta): Formation of the ‘Miya’: Examining how censored identities are talking back in the Indian state of Assam

As Butler in “Excitable Speech” (1997) popularly opines, fixing someone with a linguistically injurious name can be at the same time linguistically enabling the interpellated subject’s agency to respond to the very ground of such injurability. The offensive can have a productive/constructive aspect to it for the injured to cope with the very scene of vulnerability. This hypothesis can be quite discernible while scrutinising the power dynamic between the censor and the censored/censured as well. The case study of my research is on the community of Bengali-origin Assamese Muslims in the Indian state of Assam. The members of this particular community are pejoratively called ‘miya’ in an attempt to villainise their identity and at the same time, delegitimise their politico-legal claim to citizenship. Interestingly, however, the term otherwise means ‘a gentleman’ in Urdu.Historically having been at the receiving end of […]


Nasima Islam


14:00 PM

Patricia Lenz (Zürich): "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" Japanese Artists Caught between Nationalism and Preemptive Obedience.

In August 2019, an act of censorship caused an international sensation. Just three days after its opening, the exhibition “After ‘Freedom of Expression?'” at the Aichi Triennale in Nagoya was closed. Originally, the exhibition was intended to promote public discussion about freedom of expression in the arts. Part of the exhibition were mainly artworks dedicated to controversial topics in Japan. The works addressed war crimes, the role of the emperor in the war, the constitution’s commitment to pacifism or criticized the government. The organizers justified the closure with the security risk posed by the violent protests of right-wing lobbyist groups. In the past decade, this event has by no means remained as an isolated case in Japan’s art scene. Rather, the discussion of World War II has become almost taboo in the public art and culture scene. This development goes […]


Patricia Lenz


14:40 PM

Irakli Khvadagiani (Tiflis): Owning the past - to control the present. Post Soviet know-how in Georgia

After the collapse of the USSR, the new Georgian society failed a peaceful transition and all necessary steps for dealing with a live legacy of totalitarian rule and reconstructing a collective memory on the bases of a deideologized narrative. No lustration, no legislative frame for investigation of communist crimes, no restitution of material losses… One of the obvious elements, which guarantees an essential step in the process of dealing with a totalitarian past – transparency and accessibility of archives of the regime – was never ensured in Georgia since 1991. During post-soviet hybrid statehood, sometimes there was a legislative vacuum, sometimes direct restrictions and lately only rhetoric about transparency. Nowadays, researchers are dealing with a double trouble – highest prices for copying archival documents and restriction to access “personal data” since 1946. Same time, even the professional community of historians are […]


Irakli Khvadagiani


16:00 PM

Panel discussion (Moderation: Jochen Kibel, Berlin) mit Kristina Leko (Berlin), Nnenna Onuoha (Harvard/Potsdam) und Niloufar Tajeri (Braunschweig): Censorship and Public Spaces in Times of Monument Removals

In the panel discussion, different perspectives on phenomena of censorship and how they are addressed in public space will be discussed. The aim is less about defining the terms of censorship and more about the question of its specific manifestations and responses from the fields of political activism, scientific analysis and artistic reflection. The podium guests will discuss the possibilities and limits of interventions in public space that deal with forms of censorship or are exposed to them. Jochen Kibel Kristina Leko Nnenna Onuoha Niloufar Tajeri