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Plural Heritages of Istanbul: the Case of the Landwalls

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tom Schofield


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This submission combines films, digital artefacts and written outputs created from an AHRC /Newton project, ‘Plural Heritages of Istanbul, The Case of the Land Walls’. Turkish academic partners were funded by the national funding agency, TÜBİTAK. The digital artefact ‘Plural Heritages’ is a smartphone app for Android. The app takes co-produced video and audio content from our project and embeds it in a series of alternative, ‘bottom up’ walking tours around the UNESCO site of the Theodosian Land Walls designed primarily for the communities themselves and also to act as exemplars to Turkish heritage agencies. The films are a set of 35 shorts, co-produced with local film crews and research participants. In total the project engaged around 100 community members through interviews or film making. The project combined heritage and arts/design research methodologies to provide alternative heritage valorisations of the walls set against the official UNESCO statement of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ which defines the value of the site mostly in terms of its significance in military architecture. Our research sought to pluralise understandings of the site’s value by focusing on forms of sensory, embodied and personal remembering brought to the fore through forms of participatory creative work. Our published research was the first that explicitly connected concerns from Critical Heritage Studies (e.g. Smith, 2006) to the design and human computer interaction research community by identifying areas of common concern between the two areas of practice including interest in speculative approaches to the future and a recent focus on diverse knowledges (Sather-Wagstaff, 2017) . Our use of so-called ‘cultural probes’ to inspire co-production activities rather than design work is also unique. The empowerment and foregrounding of community perspectives in Istanbul is particularly vital and timely given the current political discord between secular and religious interests in Turkey and the Wall’s use as a symbol by the current regime, e.g. in a 2017 publicity stunt which gathered 1453 (the date of the conquest) trucks in a world-record attempt parade. Our project presented the interests of ethnically diverse groups to the site management directorate whose approach has been criticised as disregarding local communities (Shoup and Zan, 2013).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Schofield T

Publication type: Online Publication

Publication status: Published

Series Title:

Year: 2018

Access Year: 2021

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Publisher: Newcastle University

Place Published: Istanbul

Access Date: 13 August