Sunday, October 23, 2005

Kosovo fieldwork: political archaeologists, sites and extremists

Kosova/Kosovo fieldwork notes extracts

Having been in (and out and about in) Prishtine for a couple of days, I was walking around the city continuing to build up a photographic archive of its buildings and cultural heritage when I stumbled upon the municipality's Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments.

Around Prishtine, I spoke to archaeologists and at 5.30pm on the 12th of July 2005 I recorded that:
A local archaeologist says, 'we have the experience, but we don't have the archaeologists', 'we have the experience, but we don't have the money'; they have 'very little money' from the municipality - not the administration(?) - and can afford to do 'excavation and only conservation', 'not restoration', as 'it costs a lot - too much'.

He assures me that he and the other archaeologists are 'archaeologists - not political' - but he or the person who is translating joked(?), 'but we can't speak for the Serbs' - and that destruction of heritage is 'just political'.

The church [Cathedral Church of Christ the Saviour] by the library [National and University of Kosovo Library] was built in 1995 and was 'just political' - 'in the wrong place' - 'a church should not be (in the university(?)) by the library'. It's 'never been used', but 'it is protected' so 'now no wrong can be done to it'.

The local archaeologist said that cultural workers 'treat all heritage the same, not as national, not as communities''. The Albanian community has 'a tradition of accommodating the Oriental' and 'nothing of this sort' [the riots and the destruction of heritage] 'had happened before March 2004'.

Archaeologists 'have no idea who did this', but identified them as 'extremists' and the local archaeologist joked about the political problems surrounding his job saying, 'I will do my work - if the fundamentalists let me!'

Then we talked about how the 'communities used to live together', how the heritage wasn't 'national' as Albanian Muslims used to be Orthodox or other Christian and some still are Catholic or Orthodox - and some used to be Muslim and are now Catholic or Orthodox; also, Albanians and Serbs used to worship together, work at and maintain their sites together and Albanians and Serbs have continued to do so, Albanians helping to rescue cultural property from sites attacked and put out fires on or in torched sites.
Trying to identify the areas most productive for both myself and the communities I would be working with, I asked myself, "with this information, should I lean towards interpretation and presentation rather than restoration and preservation?"

Conscious of the conditions of my funding, I asked myself, "what happens to [the] socio-legal status of the research if I do?"

Participants have been afforded anonymity. Formatting has been changed to make it easy to read in a blog.

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