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Regular version of the site

Research Projects

Current Projects
  • Contemporary Historical Culture: Popular Practices and Critical Debates (HSE, 2019)

    The forms and characteristics of historical knowledge, contradictions between representations and knowledge about the past, activities and motives of new agents in this field, including those working within the framework of popular culture, have been in the focus of public attention in recent decades. They present a challenge to researchers as they ask for an interdisciplinary approach and updating the conceptual framework.

    Studies of the historical culture emerged in the 70-80s as a program for understanding various forms of actualization of the past in contemporary culture and their cognitive, aesthetic, and political aspects. This research field, developed by such significant scholars as Jörn Rüsen, David Lowenthal, Jan Assman, Francois Hartog, Reinhart Koselleck, Hermann Lübbe, was aimed at critical analysis of the society in a situation of changing value hierarchies and systems of cultural authority; emergence of media systems and active communities that formed socially significant images of the past. To examine the new interest in history and the past that today engages broad heterogeneous publics, provokes debate, participation, and creative takes, we employ the notion of the contemporary historical culture. This notion accumulates the phenomena and problems associated with the development of new media, the emergence of new forms of representation, and cultural scenes, which are often alternative to the existing system of cultural institutions and expert communities dealing with the past.

    The research project aims to create a comprehensive interdisciplinary picture of changes in the contemporary historical culture and study the diverse and multiple intersections of the development of historical knowledge and the forms of its presence in the cultural practices.

To achieve this, we conceptualize the main trends of sociocultural changes that form the contemporary historical culture and evaluate the productivity of approaches developed in various fields of modern social and humanitarian knowledge (history, memory studies, sociology of culture, cultural geography, media studies, etc.) for understanding the contemporary historical culture. It is also essential to analyze the nature of critical reflection on the contemporary historical culture, taking into account the fragmentation of historical knowledge and the increasing diversity of regimes of historicity. Finally, by researching a series of empirical cases, we aim to elucidate transformations of contemporary historical culture in particular popular practices (popular and classical music and practices of authentic performance, graphic novels, modern museums, informal memorial urban places, dealing with the problematic past, Internet as a medium for speaking about history, etc.).

The project “(Un)official Cultural Heritage in Russia”, first, aims to analyze and theoretically develop the concept of ‘unofficial cultural heritage’ in contemporary social sciences and the humanities, primarily heritage studies, public history, memory studies and studies of popular culture; second, study the boundaries of official and unofficial cultural heritage in Europe (for example, musical places in the UK, which were made by music fans and have become urban attractions supported by municipal authorities, or Portuguese student practices aimed at maintaining university culture); and, third, investigate the concept of ‘unofficial cultural heritage’ in the Russian context, as well as difficulties and conflicts that exist concerning the definition of cultural heritage and agents involved in this process.

In European and American social sciences and humanities, the concept of ‘cultural heritage’ was significantly rethought in the 1970-80s. Moving away from the strict definition of cultural heritage as tangible objects of historical value in local and national contexts, researchers drew attention to intangible, informal and often marginalized cultural forms, which, on the one hand, have cultural significance for different social groups and offer their understanding of the past; on the other hand, are often associated with popular culture, which for a long time has not been considered in terms of significance and cultural value. Fan museums, unofficial memorial sites dedicated to musicians, actors and football players, folk memorials and commemorative practices not related to ‘high’ culture are just some examples of unofficial forms of ‘work’ with the past, memory and cultural heritage .

The project involves the organization of a regular seminar, aimed at interdisciplinary study of unofficial heritage in Russia. It is focused on the identification and discussion of the key theories and methodological approaches to the study of unofficial cultural heritage in Russia. We propose the understanding of cultural heritage, first, within wider temporal (i.e., related not only to the distant past, but also recent) and social (i.e., not determined a priori at the state level, but also by many other social groups) borders; second, understanding the importance of popular culture in modern cultural processes; third, referring to intangible and ephemeral cultural forms, which are also understood in modern studies and programs of European organizations (UNESCO, English Heritage, etc.) as part of the cultural heritage. This understanding of cultural heritage defines the theoretical and methodological framework of the project.

Given the Russian context, i.e. the official definition of cultural heritage in Russia, enshrined in the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, and ongoing discussions on cultural heritage in European countries, the project participants will consider different unofficial ways of constructing cultural heritage in Russia.



Past Projects