Friction or Closure: Heritage as Loss
Keywords:Identity, Zanzibar, cosmopolitanism, friction, history, heritage, memory
Heritage is a discourse that aims at closure. It fixates the narrative of the past through the celebration of specific material (or sometimes immaterial non-) objects. It organizes temporality and construct events and freezes time. How does this unfold in the case of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Stone Town, Zanzibar? It is a place of beauty and violence, of trade, slavery and tourism, and the World Heritage narrative does not accommodate all its significant historical facts and lived memories. In this article I will discuss some of these conflicting or competing historical facts.
The anthropologist Anna Tsing has developed the concept-metaphor friction as a way to discuss the energy created when various actors narrate “the same” event(s) in different ways, and see the other participants’ accounts as fantasies or even fabrications. I will use my position as researcher and my relations to different sources: informants, authorities and texts, and discuss how different accounts relate to and partly construct each other; and how I, in my own process as an analyst and listener, negotiate these conflicting stories, what I identify as valid and non valid accounts. The case in this article is Stone Town in Zanzibar and the development and dissolution going on under the shadow of the UNESCO World Heritage flag; a growing tourism; a global and local increase in islamisation; and the political tension within the Tanzanian union. My main focus is narratives of the identity of Zanzibar since heritagization constructs identity.
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