Promotionsprogramm "Transformationsprozesse in Europäischen Gesellschaften"

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Chiara Cocco

Chiara Cocco, Msc

3rd Year


School of Social Sciences. Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
EH14 4AS, Edinburgh

Further Information

Dissertation Project

"The Performative Power of Cultural Heritage in Sardinia: Identity Construction and Representation in the Festival of Sant’Efisio. An Ethnographic Account."

Sardinia is the second biggest island in the Mediterranean, and has been politically a part of Italy since the nation-state was formed in 1861. Although it has been granted the status of ‘Autonomous Regions with Special Statute’, the relationship with the mainland has been based on financial and political dependence on the national government, demonstrating a scarce autonomy in actual terms from Sardinia (Hepburn, 2008). It has been therefore argued that the island appears to be an Italian colony, by being in a condition of subalternity with the nation-state (Magliocco, 2002). These interactions with mainland Italy inevitably affect the re-production, negotiation and performance of Sardinian identity which also transform over time as a result of globalisation, increased tourism and the quest for authenticity. I believe that the performance of cultural heritage could be used as a lens to explore the aforementioned dynamics.

In concert with the Heriot-Watt Intercultural Research Centre (IRC) objectives and values, such as interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research on cultural heritage, my PhD research project focuses on the performative potential of cultural heritage in constructing identities and contributing to social change. Specifically, I aim at investigating the link between performance of cultural heritage and identity, and the role of cultural heritage in reflecting and performing social dynamics and their transformation. I will therefore look at the performance of intangible cultural heritage, in the form of religious festivals, and its role in the dynamics of identity construction and reproduction. In order to do so, I will adopt the Festival of Sant’Efisio as my case study. It is a largely attended four day procession, in which the statue of the Saint is carried and followed across various towns in the south of Sardinia. The main event of the procession is also accompanied by religious rituals and folk parades, which seem to somewhat attract the interest of the local population and tourists both from the peninsula and from abroad (Melis, Modica and Pulina, 2016).

Through ‘yo-yo ethnographic fieldwork’ (Wulff, 2002) in Sardinia, I will investigate to which extent the performance of cultural heritage in Sardinia reflects the social, cultural and political relationships with the Italian mainland and the international context and how this is manifested in the religious procession and Festival of Sant’Efisio.

Supervisors: Prof Mairead Nic Craith, Heriot-Watt University
Dr Kerstin Pfeiffer, Heriot-Watt University