Projekt: Solidarity and the Making of Lived Heritage: networks, places and practices

Link: TISS 280.461

PR Project / Semester hours: 6.0 / ECTS 12.0

Aim of course

In light of the growing attention given to the meaning of the political, economic and social tensions for planning and designing the city, as well as their effects on the city’s public space, this project invokes heritage and solidarity as contested fields of action which are inextricably intertwined with these struggles. The project is aimed at motivated students from different disciplines as an introduction into the fields of urban studies and critical heritage studies. As regards urban studies the focus is placed on the politics and processes of solidarity which entail tactics and strategies of negotiating belonging (solidarity practices, which tend to be locally embedded in public space). At the same time a decrease in solidarity expressions reflects processes of de-solidarization which are particularly visible in the relation of the urban middle classes to urban public space. As regards critical heritage studies the project seeks to investigate heritage-making, on the one hand, as a practice field embedded in power relations (such as imperialism, colonialism, national identity reinforcement, city branding, cultural elitism, social exclusion or the fetishizing of expert knowledge), on the other, as a political act contesting these power relations. The project considers heritage not only in a material way but also as encompassing shared rituals, routines and practices of everyday life, towards developing a nuanced multifaceted view of performative acts of heritage-making through which difference in public space of European cities, in light of their distinct particularities, has been encouraged or curbed.

The course will open with an excursion to Thessaloniki (Greece), organized as a cooperation with the School of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Ass. Prof. Charis Christodoulou and Ass.Prof. Evie Athanassiou), which will engage in the themes of lived heritage and solidarity-spaces in a broader sense than urban morphology and spatial representations. Together with their peers from Thessaloniki the participants will embark upon research into and reflection on both practices and spatiality of heritage making, seen through the prism of solidarity in the historic centre as well as inner city’s peripheries. The moments of solidarity or de-solidarization within and across social groups, which may either connect living cultures and their multiple identities or set them apart, will be discussed as key ingredients of (contested) heritage making as well as an analytical framework for illuminating heritage making as a continuous struggle over meaning(s) taking place in urban public space. Having gained new critical perspectives, methodologies and tools the participants will continue on the investigation of the politics and spatial practices of belonging in urban public space in Vienna’s 18th district (Währing). This place will present them with a somewhat different set of imaginaries and narratives making up the local heritage, yet the challenge of immersing in lived social space behind the perceived surface remains the same.

Subject of course

The constructs of heritage and solidarity have been embedded in the European city both as an idea(l) and as a lived reality. Depending on the taken perspective practices of heritage-making and solidarity have been celebrated or contested, thus acting as a means towards or against the material and sociocultural heterogeneity, and significantly influencing/ determining urban development. While design and planning disciplines tend to somewhat narrowly associate these constructs with physical spaces (such as buildings listed as monuments or homes for disadvantaged people), this project rather links them to the politics of belonging and puts them at the heart of a meaningful engagement in a city’s lived space.

The project will interrogate the concept of ‚heritage‘ from a critical point of view. According to this, heritage is not an intrinsic quality possessed by objects, buildings or places. Instead we would like to conceptualize heritage as a complex social process, as a societal relationship in which various, and often competing, social groups undertake a ‚valuation‘ of certain aspects of the past, e.g. of certain identities and traditions, to give meaning to their lives in the present and future. Seen like this, heritage-making is a performative act, a process of a joint cultural production by which people strategically and tactically raise their voices in public space in order to define their relation to, and their place in the society they live in. Since heritage is shaped by power relations, however, not all social groups have the same capacities to (re)present and (re)enact their shared pasts as a ‚common heritage‘ as something that ’society‘ wishes to keep. We will look into heritage as a category that not always inspires pride. It can also be painful. It can also be subject to aspirations for its (partial) erasure.

Taking this as a point of departure, we will engage in lived spaces of Vienna and Thessaloniki to investigate the capacity of heritage to create dissonance, conflict and distrust, as well as the ability of heritage to foster cross-cultural dialogue, mutual respect and understanding, and (new/ socially rooted) forms of solidarity. In particular (idealized) solidarity as part of the institutional identity (EU, national heritage etc.), or (idealized) solidary practices as part of heritage of (sub)cultural groups (such as ethics of care) can be critically reflected on in connection to actual spatial practices in Europe’s cities. A presence of solidarity practices in European cities is increasingly seen as both a counter strategy and response to austerity urbanism and the increasingly precarious living conditions that the national and trans-national post-political governing regimes have been producing.

We would like to learn from Thessaloniki and Vienna how heritage-making and -unmaking shapes places of everyday life, intertwines with practices of inclusion and exclusion, and stimulates people to conceive of and develop new approaches to ‚change‘ through solidarity. In so doing we ask how much conceptions of solidarity and conceptions of heritage are intertwined or mutually reinforcing one another. In view of this question, the research will concern various levels and themes of heritage making, including but not restricted to:

–  transnational heritage (such as UNESCO World Heritage sites)
–  national heritage
–  local heritage
–  dark heritage/ heritage of atrocity (places of tragedy, violence)
–  difficult heritage (Nazi past, Jewish past)
–  contested heritage (colonialism, imperial occupation)
–  heritage of disasters (travelling to places of disasters, such as Chernobyl)
–  absent heritage (heritage that was deliberately destroyed, such as Palmyra)
–  immigrants‘ heritage
–  queer heritage
–  religious heritage
–  women’s heritage / men’s heritage

With regard to solidarity, the discussion will draw on different approaches to conceiving ’solidarity‘ as an inclusive or exclusive agency supporting the emergence of collective identities, as well as current processes of de-solidarization in Europe characterized by growing populisms and nationalisms.

In this course theoretical approaches to studying public life, methodologies for researching public space and heritage-making and practice-oriented learning will be combined for both a broad understanding of and a conscious engagement in multiple urban publics of the city. Based upon theoretical debates in the format of lectures, seminars and workshops, students will explore specific methods, research practices and possibilities in order to address self-determined goals of a group’s project.

The course will emphasize the value of working collaboratively. The projects will be carried out in groups, and may also include partnering with community organisations and other actors. Students will make use of a variety of planning, ethnographic and social science methods to conceive, conduct, interpret, articulate and present their research. In particular the first part of the research process carried out in Thessaloniki is meant to engage a broader audience in catalysing discussion and defining research objectives.

Additional Information

The course language is English. We encourage students¿ participation irrespective of their confidence in language proficiency.

The excursion to Thessaloniki (Greece) is a mandatory part of the course. Participation solely in the excursion can exceptionally be accepted for the students who cannot take the project course from the spatial planning curriculum, though priority will be given to students registered for the entire course.

Deadline for binding registration (for the course including the excursion) is 4 September 2016 in TISS and with an email to <>

Detailed information on the excursion programme and budgetary matters will be provided soon. Depending on the availability of the support funds for excursions from the study dean of spatial planning and the number of participants, costs for participants are approximated at 250 Euros. Students who receive `Studienbeihilfe¿, please write to <> in a timely manner in order to remove any possible budgetary barriers for your participation.

The course is structured in three intensive teaching blocks (ITB), during which a student¿s all-day presence is required.

–  Kick-off: online distribution of topics and reading assignments for the excursion
–  First ITB (Excursion): 10 to 14 October 2016 (flying in on 9 Oct, leaving on 15 Oct)
–  Second ITB: 24 to 30 November 2016
–  Third ITB: 9 to 13 January 2017
–  Consultations between teaching blocks by appointment.


ITB 1:

Excursion to Thessaloniki

ITB 2:

Thu 24.11.16: 9am – 5pm

Fri 25.11.16: 9am – 5pm

Mon 28.11.16: 9am – 3.30pm

Tue 29.11.16: 9am – 3.30pm

Wed 30.11.16: 9am – 5pm

Intermezzo 9.12.16: 9 – 10.30am

Intermezzo 16.12.16: 9 – 10.30am

ITB 3:

Mon 09.01.17: 9am – 5pm

Tue 10.01.17: 9am – 5pm

Wed 11.01.17: 9am – 5pm

Thu 12.01.17: 9am – 5pm

Fri 13.01.17: 9am – 12.30pm Student final presentations; 2 – 3.30pm Closing and Feedback

Examination modalities

The assessment of the student’s performance consists of several segments, including preparation of and informed participation in debates based on the readings assigned and supplied by the teaching team, group research projects carried out in Thessaloniki and Währing, and an individual reflection essay which shall reflect on a student’s empirical research in the context of broader theoretical and methodological debates. Students are required to complete all the segments for a successful completion of the course.

The assessment of students‘ performance will further be discussed and determined in the beginning of the course between the participating students and the lecturers by taking into consideration students‘ self-determined learning goals, and steps and formats required for achieving those goals.

Course Registration

Deadline for binding registration is 22 September 2016 in TISS and with an email to <>. We will accept the first 16 registered students (taking the whole project course). If you did not manage to get registered on time, but would like to be placed at the waiting list, please write an email titled „Excursion waiting list“ to