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Getty-CAS Open Call Spring School 2023


Archaeological Heritage Preservation and Cultural Heritage Discourses

A Spring School in the framework of the international research program “The Construction of Knowledge in Archaeology and Art History in Southeastern Europe”, organized by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia and funded by the Getty Foundation.

Host: Centre for Advanced Study Sofia
Sofia, Bulgaria / 24-30 April 2023


Ever since the interest in and about the past developed into a loosely structured set of discourses on “heritage”, both in Europe and worldwide, archaeology found itself more closely linked to local and global ideas of inheritance, community, and the nation. As a result, the discourse about “archaeological heritage” in Southeastern Europe is shaped, now more than before, by representations that reduce it to a resource for the preservation of national or other types of collective identities. Dissenting voices among archaeologists are few and far between because the culture-historical paradigm remains dominant in the region. Moreover, state-supervised archaeology and state-run politics seem to work more closely than they should, not only in Southeastern Europe, as negative reactions towards critical heritage studies in some Western European countries show. Archaeologists justify subscribing to the dominant cultural-heritage discourse by claiming that this is the best way of involving state authorities in the preservation of archaeological sites and finds and of raising awareness for the benefit of archaeological practice at large. This seems to them a reasonable, as well as beneficial way to go about studying and preserving the past, unlike perhaps other approaches generated from a vantage point away from the cultural-historical, nation-specific framework. It is also warranted by claimed compatibility with international conventions, in which statements supporting identity politics are not difficult to find. Despite such ostensibly strong support for cultural heritage, there seems to be widespread dissatisfaction among archaeologists in our region over the preservation of sites and finds, threatened especially by private initiative and by ever-growing development.


The Spring School will consist of three days of lectures (24-26 April), one day dedicated to a workshop (27 April), one to a colloquium (28 April), and two days for visiting museums and local archaeological sites (29-30 April). The lectures will present analyses of the dominant cultural heritage discourse and of its effects on the preservation of the monuments within a larger framework than that offered by the relationships between archaeologists, administration, and political power. They will do that by looking beyond the archaeological interest of preserving sites and finds, towards the political interests of promoting the particular meanings and of preserving the power to alter those meanings. The relocation of archaeological heritage from the frame that makes it a natural extension of archaeological knowledge to other realms, such as that of the institutional devices meant to be used for identity politics, will contribute to a better understanding of our relationships with the material past. The lectures will also examine the merits and shortcomings of other ways of thinking about the relevance of material remains to us, such as those present in the Faro convention or those inspired by Amartya Sen’s capability approach.  Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University), Hans Peter Hahn (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main), and Evangelos Kyriakidis (The Heritage Management Organization) have confirmed their participation as guest lecturers. Dimitris Plantzos (The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens) and Gheorghe Alexandru Niculescu (The Vasile Pârvan Institute of Archaeology), who are the directors of the program, will also give lectures.

The workshop will explore the ways in which the visible is made to stand for the meanings ascribed to it, by discursive and material framing, and the current practices that make the material visible stand for the material invisible, either because it was not preserved or because it is not displayed, practices powered by the tendency of archaeologists to think that material remains are meaningful only to them and that their selection criteria do not need to be objectivated

The colloquium will be dedicated to the understandings of archaeological heritage encountered by the junior participants during their research.

During the last two days of the Spring School, we will visit the National Archaeological Institute with Museum and archaeological sites in or around Sofia. Local curators and archaeologists will make presentations, followed by discussions, centered on their intentions and on the solutions to what they perceived to be problematic.

Who may apply

We invite applications from doctoral archaeology and art-history students, recent PhDs, and young faculty members (within eight years from obtaining their degree). Applicants (who must be fluent in English) should submit a personal statement of up to 1000 words detailing their research, as well as their reasons for wishing to attend (we expect their research to be related to the theme of the School); a recent CV; a copy of their most recent degree in archaeology, art history or a related discipline; and an abstract of up to 500 words of the specific paper they wish to present at the colloquium. Applicants must be able to demonstrate an academic and/or professional engagement with archaeology or art history in Southeastern Europe.

Successful applicants will be expected to attend all lectures, workshops, group discussions, gallery classes, and any other School meeting or event, as well as present a 20’-paper of their own at the colloquium. It is hoped that these papers will eventually lead to publishable academic articles or significant portions of the participants’ PhD theses.

Who we are

This Spring School is organized in the framework of an international research Program on archaeological theory and practice, The Construction of Knowledge in Archaeology and Art History in Southeastern Europe, funded by the Getty Foundation as part of its Connecting Art Histories initiative and coordinated and administered by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia. Our aim is to explore the regional intellectual potential for change in archaeological theory and practice over the course of three years (2021-2023); we envisage the program as an opportunity to discuss the research directions archaeologists active in the region wish to follow, and the implications paradigm shifts might have for the ways the region’s past is understood.


The School is fully funded; successful applicants will have their airfare and accommodation covered by the Program and will receive a per diem of 43 USD.

What to do and when

Prospective applicants should send their queries and application materials to Milena Varzonovtseva: [email protected], by 30 January 2023. Successful applicants will be notified by 20 February 2023.