Elisabeth Niklasson.
Elisabeth Niklasson.

Elisabeth Niklasson holds a PhD in archaeology from Stockholm University (2016). In her dissertation Funding Matters she used participant observation in the European Commission, document analysis and interviews with archaeologists to examine if and how EU grant systems have fostered specific approaches to Europeanness in archaeology. As a postdoc at Stanford Archaeology Center she continues to study how archaeology functions through capital and as capital in transnational heritage regimes. By approaching bureaucracies as sites for heritage making, she explores how institutional practices influence how we come to understand the past.


‘Fortress Europe’ and the future of the past in EU cultural policy

In a Europe fraught with economic, political and social unrest, the European Union has turned to heritage as the “new soul” of Europe. Celebrated for its ability to break borders, European heritage has been tasked with preventing further fragmentation within and between member states, with facilitating rapid integration of newcomers, and with advancing cultural diplomacy through the international fight against looting. Meanwhile, the externalisation of EU immigration policy is making Fortress Europe into more of a reality than ever, creating buffer zones that reaffirm the colonial order. In unison, far-right groups in the European Parliament chant ‘Europe for Europeans’, drawing on European heritage as an acceptable extension of ethno-nationalist belonging in opposition to non-western immigration. In both settings heritage is a strategy of selfrepresentation, and in both settings the actions and narratives of the heritage domain come into play.

The demarcation of borders is always a collaborative project and heritage professionals have participated in EUropean border making since the 1970s. In exchange for describing the ‘European significance’ of monuments and sites or the ‘European added value’ of project activities, countless heritage action have received EU funding. This talk argues that out of the long relationship between EU cultural politics and the domain of tangible heritage, there has grown a parallel approach to European belonging. One side places authority in the past, drawing borders around a European commonality through site characteristics or time periods. The other places authority in the present, promoting a more flexible understanding of heritage. The question of which side takes precedence is of great consequence for the continuous production of European borders, both conceptual and barb wired.

Full programme of the symposium "Heritage and Borders".