The Contested Heritage of Mistr Jan Hus

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Werner BINDER, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
In my talk, I address some results of an ongoing research project investigating the public commemoration of the Czech reformer Jan Hus in the context of the 600th anniversary celebrations of the Council of Constance (2014-2018). Informed by approaches in cultural sociology and memory studies, we analyze commemoration practices, public discourses and museum exhibitions in Germany as well as in the Czech Republic. In this talk, I will focus on our ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Constance, the place were Hus was burned 600 years ago, in the first week of July, 2015. While participating in a variety of events and visiting different exhibitions, we witnessed tensions resulting from different appropriations of Hus. I would like to address how this religious heritage was appropriated by different parties involved in the festivities and how the meanings of Hus were debated and negotiated. There were, for example, difficulties to incorporate the tragic burning of Jan Hus into the general celebrative framework of the Council Anniversary in Constance. In a speech, the mayor treated the city’s heritage of Jan Hus as mere commodity and cultural capital, effectively disowning Hus ‒ to the surprise of many guests. Among the Czech participants, the conflict between religious and secular meanings of Hus was predominant. The nationalist reading was criticized by all religious representatives, which did not prevent them from fighting over the heritage of Hus among themselves. The Catholic Church as well as various protestant groups claimed Hus as one of them, including the members of a small Pentecostal church in Constance, who celebrated Hus as a religious martyr and local figure representing the second reformation to come. All in all, our findings show that the heritage of Jan Hus is far from being settled.