Urban Heritage Mining Summerschool (Heritage as Placemaking)
From the 22nd to the 29th September 2022, students, young professionals, heritage activists, and teaching staff came together in the Kathmandu valley to participate in the international ‘Summer School: Urban Heritage Mining’. A project born from the collaboration of Heidelberg University and SOAS University of London, in the framework of the research project “Heritage as Placemaking: The Politics of Solidarity and Erasure”, the summer school presented 20 participants from different countries and disciplines with the chance to learn from experts, as well as from one another, approaches to research, preservation and revaluation of urban heritage. The summer school was a collaboration with the DAAD-funded partnership “Urban Transformation and Placemaking: Learning from South Asia and Germany”.
Streets, squares, palaces, temples and cafès of the Kathmandu valley have been the sites for a dynamic teaching format which highly engaged the participants with the built and social realities of the city, allowing a direct and embodied experience of cultural heritage.
Guided through the city’s streets by architects and heritage activists, the group unravelled the multiple and surprising forms that heritage can take in an urban context that reflects the tensions between historical dimensions and social layers and uncontrolled urban development.
At local museums, temples, and archives, the students learnt about issues of handling, preservation and repatriation of Nepalese deities, threatened by heritage trafficking and by the contestations of multiple stakeholders. Furthermore, thanks to the collaboration with local music groups (dāphā khalah) in the historic city of Kirtipur, the participants could also delve deep into non-tangible forms of heritage – such as traditional religious processions –, and research the interrelations among humans, deities, food, music, and urban forms. On these occasions, participants, split in fieldwork teams, practiced with walking as anthropological research method and with crowdsourcing techniques for heritage data collection (GIS mapping).
The excavated data and its relationship with the built and social context of the neighbourhood were represented through “heritage walks”, which constitute one of the concrete outcomes of the summer school. The summer school participants were challenged to produce their own written reflection about forms of (tangible and/or intangible) urban heritage which have been existing in the city, largely undetected or ignored by official heritage policies and advocacy. These gems have been published as blog entries in the HaP (Heritage as Placemaking) website. The summer school was co-funded by Heidelberg University’s Flagship Initiative Transforming Cultural Heritage”.