1st Edition

Intangible Cultural Heritage and Reconciliation in the Western Balkans An Anthropological Perspective

By Miloš Milenković Copyright 2024
    246 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book considers the sensitive heritage elements linked to the very issue of the origins of nations. Beliefs, rituals, and traditional knowledge are examples of intangible cultural heritage (ICH), which communities globally regard as the core of their cultural identity. When it is unclear which element of heritage “belongs” to whom, like in the Western Balkans, where the majority of heritage elements are shared, ICH disputes exacerbate conflict. Its mishandling is especially acute when minority heritage is excluded from governmental cultural policies. With a focus on Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, this book has a global thematic scope, theoretical depth, and policy relevance to the scholars of anthropology and heritage studies as well as to those interested in cultural diversity, human rights, and cultural and educational policies. It will serve as a guide for those who professionally use cultural heritage, or want to start doing so, in the processes of reconciliation, stabilization, and development.



    1 Introduction: Anthropological aims, ethnological means


    Part I Approaching ICH after post-cultural Anthropology


    2 Heritage denialism: Anthropology and critical heritage studies against ICH safeguarding      


    3 Post-cultural anthropology: The source of contemporary heritage denialism



    Part II Ethnologists as expert-bureaucrats: Lessons from the Western Balkans


    4 Beyond anthropology versus ethnology in former Yugoslavia


    5 Fieldwork: Method and context


    6 The ethnic versus territorial attribution of minority, contested, and shared intangible heritage


    7 Professional expertise versus the politicization of knowledge in ICH arena


    8 Heritage disciplines within ICH reconciliation and development framework in the Western Balkans



    Part III Ne nuntium necare



    Conclusion: Putting anthropology back to heritage


    Name Index

    Subject Index


    Miloš Milenković is Professor at the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade.

    “Miloš Milenković’s book dares us to think positively about the structures for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, and the work these structures and intangible heritage more generally can do for society. In doing so, he unpacks the destructive possibilities of critique for critique’s sake and points to a brighter landscape where critique and critical thinking come together not to destroy, but to build; where heritage is not (only) a tool of manipulation, but also a (potential) tool of resilience and peace.”

    - Lucas Lixinski, Professor at the Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW Sydney                     

    “This is a timely book and a brave one, attempting to overcome the contrast, and occasional conflict, between ethnology and anthropology in Eastern Europe. Drawing on extensive fieldwork from the Western Balkans and engagement with policymakers and NGOs, Milenković argues that the two sister disciplines are complementary rather than in competition. His refreshing and original view on intangible cultural heritage has the potential to enrich both disciplines, and could have an impact on policy and ideology at this time of neo-nationalism and polarization. Although the book has a regional focus, the message is relevant for comparative analysis and anthropological theory, and it deserves a wide readership.”

    - Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo