World Heritage in the Making : An ethnography of the cultural heritage conservation practices in İzmir, Türkiye

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi

Abstract: This thesis is an ethnographic research of the cultural heritage conservation practices in İzmir, focusing particularly on the heritage site Historical Port City of İzmir’s conservation on individual, local, and global levels from an anthropological point of view. With its ongoing inscription process to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the study aims, first, to understand the motivation behind this inscription, the current conservation practices in the city that are undergone by individual and local actors, and to analyze the impact and connection between the individual, local and global efforts to protect İzmir’s multicultural and multilayered heritage. Conducted during the 10-day long World Heritage Volunteers program “Heritage for the Future in the Historical Port City of İzmir” organized by the UNESCO World Heritage Education Program and Site Directorate of the Historical Port City of İzmir, the research employs the anthropological methods of participant observation, structured interviews, netnography, as well as multi-sensory ethnography. The study shows that the site’s WHL inscription is motivated by the desire to enhance the city’s further protection on different levels such as raising awareness, receiving financial help, and increasing its visibility to attract local, national, and international visitors and users. The same approach has also been observed within the current conservation practices conducted by local actors to preserve the multicultural values of the city and conserve its 8500 years of multilayered fabric that carries traces of Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Beylic, Ottoman, and Republican periods, stretching up to today. This short-term ethnographic research concludes that heritage conservation is a multi-level process where every level (individual, local, and global) and actor has an important role in the protection of the site’s integrity and the transmission of its values to future generations. Focusing on the current anthropological theories and studies on heritage and UNESCO, this case study of the Historical Port City of İzmir reflects that statement and points not only to the conservation of the city's past heritage but also to the fact that this cannot happen without addressing the city's contemporary needs such as sustainable development, cohesion, and the socio-economic prosperity of the city and its current inhabitants.

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