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Ivo Strahilov

Bulgaria

Ivo Strahilov is assistant professor at the Department of History and Theory of Culture at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. He holds a PhD in Cultural Studies (2019) and works in the field of Critical Heritage Studies. His scholarly interests include contemporary uses of heritage, identity politics and performativity, minorities’ heritages, environmental heritage and mobilisations, and intangible heritage with an emphasis on masquerades. He is currently in charge of a research project that investigates the historical, socioeconomic, and cultural meanings of the Ottoman public baths and water heritage.

BEYOND BORDERS? EXAMINING ARCHAEOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE CONSTRUCTION AND HERITAGE POLITICS IN SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

This paper examines the dynamics of heritage-making and knowledge construction in archaeology in Southeastern Europe, focusing on the ancient necropolis of Trebenishte in North Macedonia. The complex history of this site, marked by multiple excavations, changing national borders and interpretational paradigms, offers important insights into the appropriation and instrumentalization of heritage in and from the region.

The dispersal of the necropolis’ artifacts among museums in Bulgaria, Serbia and (North) Macedonia over the last century, combined with competing interpretations, has led to incoherence and contestation. National archaeological schools, influenced by culture-historical archaeology, have attributed ethnic characteristics to the ancient graves based on nationalistic and scholarly agendas. In 2018, however, a landmark agreement was signed between museums in the three countries, leading to a joint exhibition on the Trebenishte site and the first assembling of its finds. This initiative is politically imbricated in the context of the Europeanisation of the Balkans and in relation to respective national situations. Furthermore, while it aims to promote European integration and cooperation, this project has been also affected by ongoing bilateral tensions between the states.

Drawing on the social life of Trebenishte necropolis, this paper highlights the historical and current trends in archaeological knowledge production and the uses of archaeological heritage for national, regional, and European goals. It is further situated within global heritage processes and considers the influences of “world” museums and research traditions on “local” archaeological finds.