Cultural heritage in focus

Cultural heritage in focus
The TEMA+ Milestone Conference 2023 on European Territories: Identity, Heritage and Development, organised by the TEMA+ Consortium and the Atelier Department of Interdisciplinary History, took place between 14-16 July 2023 at the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE. The conference was the closing event of the TEMA+ European Territories Heritage and Development Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree bilingual MA programme. It was the first excellence joint degree programme coordinated by ELTE and it ended in its current form in August 2023.

The bilingual MA programme, coordinated by ELTE's Atelier Department, has welcomed students from all over the world since 2011 to obtain dounle and multiple MA degrees from four European and one Canadian university (ELTE, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, Charles University in Prague, University of Catania, and Laval University in Québec). The aim of the programme was to provide students with a better understanding of the growing importance of Cultural Heritage and its international discours by applying multinational, interdisciplinary, and critical approach that none of the existing MA degrees in any European university had previously offered.

More than 133 people have graduated from the programme since 2011,

many of them now are researchers and faculty members at renowned universities such as Yale, Northeastern London University, the University of Burgundy and ELTE. The conference was organised and facilitated by Hungarian and foreign professors and Alumni of the Consortium’s partner universities, as well as by students of Atelier Department’s Cultural Heritage MA and Doctoral Programme.

The two-day long scientific event was hosted by the Faculty of Humanities. The first day's programme starting at 9.30 a.m. on 14 July was opened by a joint opening presentation given by Prof.Gábor Sonkoly, DSc, Scientific Coordinator and Project Manager of the TEMA+ programme at ELTE, and Péter Erdősi, senio lecturer of the Atelier Department and TEMA+ lecturer. The presentation showed how European territories werer erceived by TEMA and TEMA+ programmes, summarising the results of the programme’s more than a decade long operation.

There were two conference sessions in the morning (Histories - Territories and Identity), also in English, chaired by Gábor Czoch (Head of Atelier Department, ELTE BTK) and Jaroslav Ira (TEMA+ Scientific Coordinator at Charles University, Prague). Speakers included former TEMA and TEMA+ alumni such as Nariman Shelepkayev, PhD (associate professor at Yale University) from Kazakhstan who spoke about the fallacies of Russian historical thinking, the Ethiopian Sisay Megersa Dirirsa, PhD (Bielefeld University) problematised global historiography, while the Turkish Ali Hatapçı, PhD (lecturer at the Université de Bourgogne) drew attention to some of the shortcomings of English historiography of science. After a short break, Dr.Imre Tarafás (TEMA Alumni, senior lecturer at ELTE BTK) and Dr.Dániel Veress (TEMA Alumni and assistant lecturer at ELTE BTK) gave presentations on national identity and nationalism in the 19th century, followed by a presentation on South America by Juan Gabriel Ramírez Bolívar (PhD student at New York University) from Colombia.

The third session (Heritages - Territories and Cultural Heritage) started in the afternoon, was chaired by Eva Hajdinová (Charles University, Prague) and featuring two recent graduates, Eloisa Ocando Thomas from Colombia and Oskars Roga from Latvia, and also Andrea Kocsis (assistant professor at Northeastern London University). They gave presentations on their current research, including the possibilities of using digital methods in historiography (Kocsis) contemporary dilemmas in Estonian historiography (Roga) and the case of the casaba (Ocando Thomas), defined as a national dish, which played an important role in Venezuelan nation-building discourse in the 18th and 18th century.

The afternoon programme included a round table discussion chaired by Leigh Biddlecome (USAA, a TEMA+ and Oxford Alumna, now freelance writer and teacher currently based in Florence, Italy), with participants including not only Nariman Shelekpayev and Ali Hatapçı, but also Haroune Ben Charif (PhD student at the University of Campania, Algeria), Luis Alberto Velasco Ruiz (PhD student at EHESS, Paris), Mexico, Lila Ré Monteiro from France (International Attaché and Administrator of the Fédération française des clubs pour l'Unesco) and Lilla Zámbó (Coordinator of the TEMA+ consortium, PhD candidate at ELTE and EHESS and main conference organizer), and Gérald Gozegba from the Central African Republic (anthropologist, TEMA alumni, GIST researcher) participated online.

The closing event of the first day was the graduation ceremony of the last cohort of TEMA+ (2021-2023),

which took place from 18:00 and was attended by the majority of the students graduating this year from the programme, in addition to the 60 participants of the conference. The ceremony was concluded with a buffet reception dinner, during which participants had the opportunity for more personal discussions.

The conference programme continued the next day (15 July) with presentations mainly in French, with the opening lecture by Marie-Vic Ozouf-Marignier and Nicolas Verdier (research directors at EHESS Paris and Scientific codinators of the programme) entitled „Enseigner sur le territoire en contexte multiculturel: retour sur l'expérience de TEMA”. The fourth session featured presentations by Omar Artal (PhD student with Stipendium scholarship at ELTE) from Morocco, analysing an element of his country's intellectual heritage, and Narcisse Fomekong Djeugou (PhD student at the University of Dschang) from Cameroon, on the causes of Cameroon's loss of identity, which were complemented by an online presentation by Avenir Géradine Meikengang (PhD student at the University CY Cergy Paris), also from Cameroon, analysing issues of identity and territorial developmen in Cameroon.

During the morning, in the fifth session, Patricio López Beckett (Chile, employee of the International Network of facilitators of UNESCO's Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage) presented the issues of heritage, urban space and the public sphere through a contemporary example of the Chilean capital, and Emilie Gourbin (France, recent MA graduate) addressed the challenges of identities in the historic district of Québec, Canada. Finally, Jovana Janinovic (lecturer at the University of Montenegro) presented a paper on the processes of commodification of communist heritage through tourism in Central and Eastern Europe. After lunch, Mohammed Boulajdad (recent MA graduate from Morocco) raised questions of identity and geopolitics in an analysis of the European heritage discourse and the Mediterranean, and Safa Amorri (also a recent MA graduate from Tunisia) concluded the conference with a presentation on the heritage of cave dwellers in the Tunisian village of Toujane in the 21st century.

In the afternoon of the second day, a UNESCO workshop was held, entitled as „Story Circles - Building Resilience through the Development of Intercultural Competencies and moderated by Lila Ré Monteiro. Finally, Gábor Sonkoly, Gábor Czoch, Marie-Vic Ozouf-Marignier, Nicolas Verdier and Jaroslav Ira, Paolo Militello, Scientific Coordinators and lecturers of the TEMA+ Consortium's patner universities closed the conference and the programme by thanking to its members and participants of the conference.

As a final programme of the conference, participants had the opportunity to spend some leisure time at the ELTE Water Sports Centre on Sunday (16 July). They could also enjoy cooking and sports together, thus deepening personal contacts. The three-day long international alumni and student conference not only resulted in important scientific results, but also helped to develop personal and professional networks. This was particularly important in the wake of the restrictions on mobilities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisers hope that the success of the conference will have long-term impacts and will serve as a model for future TEMA+ professional and alumni meetings. The main organisers of the conference would like to thank all those who contributed to the realisation of the conference (to Saber Qechai, Omar Artal, Gaál Tekla, Mezei Hanna Mónika, Mézes Dorottya and Tüske Tamás, as well asto  Dr. Gábor Czoch and the staff of the ELTE Water Sports Centre). The organisers also thank to all actors who contributed to the funding of the conference, namely tot he TEMA+ Consortium and the Student Union of the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE.

Authors: Tamás Tüske and Lilla Zámbó

Fact sheet and impressions of the TEMA and TEMA+ Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programmes

Website of the programme and the conference