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Whose Heritage? Immigration and Place Narratives in Denmark

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Questions of heritage, of ownership of discourses of past and present are important elements in present-day struggles over identity and belonging, not least those related to immigration policy. None the less, the perspective of immigrant groups is often overlooked when decisions are taken concerning preservation of heritage sites.

Since the late 1960s the area around Frederiksværk, Northern Zealand has become the home of large numbers of immigrants, notably from ex-Yugoslavia, who were brought to Denmark to serve as rank and file in the then booming steel industry. In spite of their undeniable contribution to the development of the town, the cultural heritage of this relatively large immigrant population takes up very little space in the official branding of the town as a key site in the industrial history of Denmark.

This article discusses the various place narratives in relation to immigrants in the case of Frederiksværk. We take as our point of departure the Danish notion of kulturmiljø (cultural milieu), which is more material than the notion of heritage. This discussion focuses on the ability of kulturmiljø to capture and incorporate the multiple and often contradictory cultural practices of different groups of actors and not the least to transgress the often rather static and confined view on local history, which often results from the heritage perspective. We analyze how different actors, notably the Yugoslavs, are represented in the narratives of the town, and how Yugoslav immigrants themselves perceive their position in Frederiksværk. Furthermore, we attempt to register some of the imprints made by immigrants on the material and cultural fabric, possibly useful to include in a kulturmiljø of Frederiksværk. The conclusion assesses the potentials and limitations of the kulturmiljø approach with regard to making visible the place narratives of immigrants.
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Keywords: Frederiksværk; Kulturmiljø; immigrants; industrial heritage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Roskilde University, Denmark

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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