Unruly Heritage’s activities will take its members down two distinct, yet closely related paths:

  • Soviet Heritage and the North (P1)
  • Sea-Borne Debris and Drift Beaches (P2)

Fieldwork sites, specific case studies, and theoretical approaches will be announced as the project unfolds.

P1: Sticky Heritage

Ancient, heritage ruins are often presented to us neatly, for our occasional enjoyment, giving the impression that heritage is optional and the result of voluntary engagement. Ruins in peripheral regions of the North Atlantic are constant and ubiquitous in their presence. Abandoned military sites, empty apartment buildings and houses, vacant shopping malls, ruined factories, and desolate mining towns persist. They are sticky.

Their material otherness challenges notions of memory, time, and historical succession. In the Russian north, especially in remote towns on the Kola Peninsula, Soviet heritage is palpable, omnipresent, and imperative. Fieldwork in this area will concentrate on studying and documenting abandonment, ruination, and how people cope with these material legacies.

Questions asked include: Is ‘Sovietism’ a mental heritage of passivity, or are we rather dealing with an ‘effective archaeology’ that impacts all attempts to move on? How does the viscosity of this material past complicate traditional notions related to historical succession and chronology? At what moment did the Soviet Union end, and, most importantly, has it really ended at all?

P2: Surplus Diasporas

The abundance of drift matter from drift wood to plastic agglomerates is well-documented, and is a growing concern in the era of micro-plastics and decaying marine environments. Without trivializing or refuting the serious environmental issues caused by sea-borne debris, the aim of this branch of the project is to explore how these accumulating assemblages shed light on the unruly afterlives of things, and how this may impel alternative understandings of heritage. 

The gathering of displaced surplus legacies forces us to think with different temporalities and complex ecologies. Things are not innocent beings under full human control; they disobey. They get out of hand.

Questions asked include: How can a concern for the voyage of things, their gathering, and their entanglement underpin less anthropocentric concepts of ‘care’? Given the challenges we face in the age of the Anthropocene, is it still possible to proceed with a concept of ethics that pertains to humans only? Should we rather be urged by coastal unruliness to boldly explore alternative notions of heritage that address non-human entities, nature, and things not merely as victims of crime, but as partners in crime?