Research areaCultural Heritage
We investigate debates on controversial cultural objects in order to demonstrate that arguments focus heavily on the ethos of figures commemorated by cultural objects. Cultural heritage considers the legacy from our past that should be preserved in the present for future generations. The key place in this domain is occupied by controversial cultural objects, such as Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, associated with historical figures, in this case Joseph Stalin, which provoke heated public debates and dividing the society. This work aims to introduce the new concept specific for this domain of historical ethos building upon the classic notion of the character of the speaker introduced by Aristotle. We show that the debates about whether to demolish a cultural object are in fact the debates about whether a historical figure associated with this object should still be revered by it.
One of the main reasons why recent public controversies about whether or not to revere or to remove cultural objects such as monuments, statues and buildings (often referred to as `contested’ cultural heritage) are so emotional is that such objects display a certain set of values in the public sphere and thus form collective, historical memory of the society. Some of these objects which are subject to controversies over whether to revere them or remove them from the public space are labelled the `contested’ cultural heritage. For example, the vivid discussions in the Spanish mass media about the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos) near Madrid anticipated the decision of the Spanish government to remove the remains of a general and dictator, Francisco Franco, to the Mingorrubio cemetery on the 24th of October, 2019. In Poland, there are long lasting and emotional debates about whether or not to remove the Palace of Culture and Science (Palac Kultury i Nauki) in Warsaw which was a gift from a premier of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, offered to the Polish nation in the 1950s. In April 2015, the representatives of the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa argued in favour of removing the statue of imperialist, Cecil Rhodes, from the University of Cape Town campus. This decision has led to discussions about removing Rhodes’ statues in other places worldwide. Numerous debates on the Confederates’ statues in the US have led to removing the Robert E. Lee’s statue in Dallas in the summer of 2017. In the UK, there are, e.g., disputes about removing statues of a philanthropist and slave trader, Edward Colston, in Bristol.
The work is supported by the Polish National Science Centre under grant 2015/18/M/HS1/00620.
To find out more, go to:
Pereira-Fariña, M. Koszowy, K. Budzynska, C. Reed (2019) Dialogical Aspects of Appeals to Authority in Spanish and Polish Disputes About Cultural Objects, Proc. of 9th Conference on Argumentation of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation (ISSA 2018), SicSat, Amsterdam.