The simulation of heritage: cultural religious events and diasporic identities

Catalani, Anna (2018) The simulation of heritage: cultural religious events and diasporic identities. In: Heritage Across Borders Conference, Association of Critical Heritage Studies Conference, 3-6 September 2018, Hangzhou, China.

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The simulation of heritage: cultural religious events and diasporic identities
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Since 1890, every year in June, in the district of Ancoats in Manchester, UK, a religious procession in honour of Our Lady of the Rosary takes place. For the past 150 years, the Italian community has been gathering in this area of Manchester (also known as ‘Little Italy’ due to the influx of Italian immigrants in the late 1800s) to carry a statue of the Our Lady of the Rosary and the religious emblems of local catholic churches, across the city centre. The solemn procession - attended by the Mayor of Manchester, members of the regional Italian consulate, women in traditional Italian dresses and children in their First Communion dress- attracts hundreds of people, who come to watch the event and experience what is perceived as an authentic Italian celebration. This, indeed, is an important religious event for the Italian diasporic community in Manchester and for the city itself, which takes pride in being a multicultural and welcoming place.
The procession, as a cultural/religious heritage practice, has been transmitted within and re- created by the local Italian diaspora for about 150 years. In this way, it has inevitably lost some of the original cultural and symbolic elements. At the same time, though, it has acquired, through a fluid process of cultural renegotiation -between the local Italian diaspora and the Mancunian/British community- new elements and become platforms for diasporic identity construction and cultural values transmission, through the reinvention and re-appropriation of cultural practices and material culture.

The paper, therefore, addresses the following research questions: how is cultural heritage ‘simulated’, ritualized and enacted through traditional diasporic events? And how can such events allow diasporic communities to reclaim a cultural identity and social space in the cultural fabric of a city?

Using Baudrillard’s notion of simulacra and simulations, this paper critically considers how intangible heritage practices and diasporic material culture are (re)defined and transmitted amongst communities, through the staging of religious/cultural festivals. It concludes that events like the Italian procession allow diasporic groups both to strengthen their sense of religious and cultural identity and reconcile their multiple cultural heritage with local collective, but often unspoken, (hi)stories and memories.

Additional Information:This paper was delivered as a video.
Keywords:diasporic identity; intangible heritage; simulacra and simulation
Subjects:L Social studies > L990 Social studies not elsewhere classified
L Social studies > L610 Social and Cultural Anthropology
L Social studies > L370 Social Theory
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Design)
ID Code:34212
Deposited On:16 Nov 2018 08:28

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