Ivo Strahilov

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Ivo Strahilov


Ivo Strahilov holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (2019) and specializes in the field of Critical Heritage Studies. His dissertation scrutinizes the social construction of the ancient Thracian heritage and its contemporary political, economic, academic and popular dimensions in Bulgaria. Drawing upon fieldwork in France and Bulgaria, it also explores how cultural heritage is rearticulated and renegotiated within the entanglements between Europe’s “core” and “periphery”. In his postdoctoral research project, Ivo Strahilov works on the debates and contestations visible in the making of international archaeological exhibitions in Southeastern Europe and beyond. Other aspects of his current research focuses on popular narratives of the past, historical reenactments, and new festivities. Ivo Strahilov’s scholarly interests include also identity politics and performativity, modern uses of heritage, minorities’ heritages (especially Romani and Ottoman), and intangible heritage with an emphasis on masquerades and carnivals. He has been a visiting fellow at the University of Guadalajara (2016), Paris Descartes University (2017 and 2018), University of Salento (2018), and the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2019).

Shared and Contested: Cultural Heritage of Southeastern Europe in National, Regional and European Perspective. The case of Trebenishte Necropolis

The modern history of the ancient necropolis situated near the Macedonian village of Trebenishte by Ohrid lake represents a peculiar case, which provides us with important terrain that could reveal some significant dynamics in knowledge construction in archaeology and history in Southeastern Europe. It was in 1918, towards the end of World War I, when the Bulgarian army “discovered” ruins and precious objects, while repairing the road between Kichevo and Ohrid. Back then archaeologists from Bulgaria have been sent to further investigate the site, and many artefacts have consequently been transferred to the National archaeological museum in Sofia. Later, after the constitution of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918), excavations have continued in the 1930s under the direction of prominent Serbian archaeologists. Nowadays, the objects found during this period belong the collection of the National museum of Belgrade. The third part of the artefacts which have been discovered afterwards, mostly by Macedonian archaeologists, are related to the history of (North) Macedonia as an independent state and remain at its museums. Due to these complex and controversial historical developments and consecutive independent excavations, not only have the objects been dispersed in the three countries, but also their interpretations have been incoherent and competing. Following the premises of the culturehistorical archaeology, national archaeological schools have attributed ethnic characteristics to the ancient graves according to respective nationalistic and scholarly agendas. Thus, the necropolis has been categorised and used as heritage that would testify the existence or the superiority of a relevant archaeological culture (e.g. Illyrian, Mycenean, Thracian, Macedonian, etc.). On the other hand, this procedure legitimates the accuracy of the specific archaeological paradigm. In 2018, however, an agreement was signed between museums in North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia that led to a joint exhibition on the ancient site and the first assemblage of its finds. Firstly, the whole collection was exhibited in Skopje in 2019, whereas it is agreed that Belgrade and Sofia will host it in near future, too. Certainly, this initiative is also imbricated with political intentions in the context of the Europeanisation of the Balkans. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork among Macedonian archaeologists and experts in the sphere of cultural heritage, participant observation of the exhibition, study of media representations and review of existing interpretational theories, this paper aims at presenting some preliminary results of an ongoing project exploring the social life of the necropolis of Trebenishte. My research highlights past and current tendencies in both archaeological knowledge production and further instrumentalizations of archaeological heritage for national, regional and European goals.