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The Notion of Cultural Heritage and the Imagery of Ashiqliq, as a Turkic Bardic Tradition, in the Urban Space of Contemporary Iran
The Ashiq, who are Turkish bards, constitute a significant aspect of Turkish identity in Iran, where Persian is the national language. In this context, where modern and Western cultural concepts are dominant, traditional cultural products that do not fit into recognized categories are marginalized and can only find refuge in the categories of cultural and intangible heritage. Drawing on an ongoing field survey, this presentation aims to examine the concept of cultural heritage. Specifically, we aim to analyze the autobiographical narratives of 30 Iranian Ashiqs recorded between 2018 and 2022, in order to explore the effects of using heritage discourse on the oral tradition. We will demonstrate how the use of this discourse helps the Ashiqs and, most importantly, their fans to valorize the tradition in a society where the minority status of the Turkish language condemns all cultural products to be considered as "local" and "folkloric," as opposed to "national" and "official." We will examine how this valorizing discourse influences the image of the Ashiq in society and how it shapes a new perception of this practice simultaneously. Does not the enhancement of the Ashiq's imagery go hand in hand with a subtle transformation in their practices and tastes ? Are the Ashiqs adapting to this new perception by favoring certain practices over others? What are other decisive elements in this transformation ? These questions will be at the heart of our study."
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