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SIEF Summer School 2020

‘Heritage, Tradition, Identity. A Case Study of the Palio di Siena’
Siena, 25 June – 3 July 2020

Convenor: Fabio Mugnaini, University of Siena, Italy

In collaboration with the Department of Scienze Storiche e dei Beni Culturali, University of Siena and the Scuola di Specializzazione in Beni Demoetnoantropologici, University of Perugia
Today’s heritage policies may be seen as strategies for the promotion of traditions, whether they be marginal and neglected, or celebrated local treasures that work symbiotically with tourist development programs.

The third SIEF International Summer School aims to explore the triangle composed of tradition, explored as an open and progressively constructed concept, identity, as a grassroots need or rhetorical construct, self-legitimating and aiming to enact difference, and heritage policies, with their contrasting demands of safeguarding and valorization of diversity versus control of the “product”. It will focus on heritage policies as strategies for the promotion of traditions in relation to the dynamics of identity and to the challenge posed by the touristic gaze.

We will be interrogating a number of questions,

The Summer School will take place in Siena during the crucial week of the world-renowned Palio, which the participants will be invited to consider as representative of our theme.

The Palio festival focuses on a horse race and on competition among the Contrade (city districts), social networks offering mutual support and building community identity. Firmly established in Siena’s social and economic life, the Palio and the Contrade have survived many pressures throughout their existence, long before modernity discovered and celebrated them as a tourist resource, or movie and media backdrops. The Palio today may be seen as a “global” event, one that deeply involves several thousand people under an international gaze, illuminated in a continuous spotlight. The festival has been thoroughly documented and studied, both its historical roots and its more recent presence in social media and on the web (a detailed bibliography will be available to participants).

The Palio and the Contrade system offer a rich lens through which Summer School participants can consider our theoretical topics, not least the allure and limits of official or institutional heritage policies, media-driven over-exposure of tradition, and identity-driven cultural intimacies.