Where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill
A comparative study of coffee houses as intangible and contested cultural heritage sites in Vienna, Trieste, Budapest, Sarajevo, Belgrade and Thessaloniki
In October 2011, UNESCO listed the Viennese Coffee House Culture in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List. This inventory, created in 2008, aims to keep alive traditions and cultural practices and to maintain cultural diversity in a globalizing world. This project aims to compare six cities – Trieste, Vienna, Sarajevo, Budapest, Belgrade and Thessaloniki - that are all advertised on the global tourist market for their traditional “coffee culture”, which was inherited and developed under the Ottoman and/or Austro-Hungarian Empires. Accordingly, this project aims to assess how coffee culture connects and distances these six cities from their common imperial pasts. On the one hand, the problematic reification of coffee culture as one of the main identifiers of these cities imagine them as part of a whole to be sold on the global tourist market. On the other hand, coffee (the way to prepare it and name it) has also become a means to re-define local identities that contest and re-appropriate the common imperial heritage (e.g. Turkish coffee versus Bosnian Coffee). Overall, this project is interested in engaging critically with the concept of intangible cultural heritage and to explore the ways in which the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian legacies affect contemporary processes of identity formation and aspirations in the six cities selected for this project. Further, the project aims to discuss the ways in which coffee houses have become, in these cities, privileged sites for local and global struggles over how to preserve the past (often nostalgically) while looking forward to the future also as a means to taking advantage of the global tourist market.