By Philipp Demgenski
Public talk given at the Research Centre for Land and Cultural Resources at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Museology of Fudan University, China.
The talk was the seventh in a series titled “Fudan Cultural Heritage Preservation Series”. 5. April 2017 at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
The talk was given in Chinese and addressed the problems revolving around a run-down inner city neighbourhood in the northeastern Chinese city of Qingdao that was not so long ago rediscovered as a place of historical and cultural importance. So-called experts have been calling for the preservation of its “tangible” artefacts, namely the architectural remains. The talk questioned the distinction between “tangible” and “intangible” by focusing on how the neighbourhood, its architecture and spatial composition had specific meaning and “use-value” to different predominantly disadvantaged urban groups. The talk also highlighted that the neighbourhood itself is an evolved urban entity whose value is to be found in its transformation over the past century, a transformation that is still ongoing. Finally, the talk addressed some more fundamental issues pertaining to urban development and so-called “preservation-oriented redevelopment” projects in China.
A summary with photos can be found here (in Chinese).
By Chiara Bortolotto and Morena Salama.
Presentation of the paper at the panel “Imperatives of participation in the heritage regime: statecraft, crisis, and creative alternatives” (Cultural Heritage and Property Working Group).
This panel took place at the 13th Congress of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore- SIEF2017 titled ” Ways of dwelling. Crisis craft and creativity” (Gottingen, Germany – 27th March 2017).
“Participation” of “communities”, keywords of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, are far from being globally understood in the same way. These global buzzwords compromise with national and local institutional approaches to heritage management, with existing national legislations, political priorities as well as with available technical skills and academic corporations. The first part of this presentation introduces the project “UNESCO frictions: heritage-making across global governance” which ethnographically follows the social life of the UNESCO Convention across the different scales of its implementation in China, Brazil and Greece and explores the tensions arising in the translation of the imperative of participation imposed by an international norm into national heritage institutions and local projects.
In the second part the attention is drawn to the Brazilian case study. We will focus on the main channels created by the Brazilian state in order to foster the participation of communities in the implementation of safeguarding processes that take place after an intangible element is officially declared “National Cultural Heritage”. These participative tools are: the constitution of deliberative committees, the drafting of safeguarding plans and the “shared management” of public cultural centres.
Drawing on the safeguarding process of the samba de roda we will illustrate the controversies, limitations and achievements triggered by these participative channels while exploring the issues that have been challenging the application of the participative call of the ICH Convention on the ground.
Chiara Bortolotto, « Placing ICH, owning a tradition, affirming sovergnity: the role of spatiality in the practice of the ICH Convention », in P. Davis et M. Stefano The Routledge Companion to Intangible Cultural Heritage. London & New York, Routledge, 2016: 46-58
The 2003 Convention has opened up new scenarios in the representation of heritage as it defines it in ethnographic rather than topographic terms (Hafstein, 2007, p. 93). By positioning ICH expressions in relation to communities rather than places, the 2003 Convention shifts away from territorial definitions: ‘intangible cultural heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage […]’ (UNESCO, 2003, Article 2). In avoiding a territorial definition of communities,1 it establishes an ‘open’ relationship between heritage, communities and place whereby community membership is not ‘naturally’ established by local roots, thus promoting dynamic representations of culture and identity. This, however, clashes with the political mechanisms of the Convention, based on negotiations between States bent on promoting national interests, as well as with the identity and economic uses social actors make of heritage, often depending on precise geographical delimitation of cultural resources. In this chapter, I explore the tension arising from these two ways of making sense of space based on an ethnographic study of the international arena in which the 2003 Convention is implemented.
On February 5, Europe’s biggest Chinese New Year’s parade took place in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. In preparation of my upcoming fieldwork on Intangible Cultural Heritage in China, I ventured out into the crowds to take a look. Chinese New Year (itself commonly celebrated as the epitome of lived traditional culture) among diasporic communities would most certainly offer a colourful array of traditional cultural practices. And I was not to be disappointed. What I encountered was indeed an intangible cultural heritage feast, a carnivalesque potpourri of colourful costumes, martial arts, dance, singing, religious rituals, cultural exchange and also a bit of politics. Several groups that were part of the parade performed or displayed cultural elements that are part of the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. What particularly caught my attention was the members of the Association of Fujianese in France (法国福建会馆) who were moving a small Mazu (妈祖) shrine on wheels along the parade. Mazu is a goddess of the sea and thus particularly worshipped in coastal regions (for more on Mazu, see here and here). The Mazu Beliefs and Customs were submitted to UNESCO by China and inscribed on the Representative List in 2009. I was surprised to see two eye-catching yellow banners (one on each side of the shrine) proclaiming the fact that Mazu is included in the UNESCO World (Intangible) Heritage List (see image). Notably, the word “intangible” is only mentioned in Chinese, but omitted in French. The claim is evidently wrong because Mazu was inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Heritage, which is very different from the World Heritage List and there is no such thing as a “World Intangible Heritage List”. But nitpicks aside, the interesting question is why the Association of Fujianese in France evidently regarded it as important to use the UNESCO label at a Chinese New Year’s parade in Paris. Why was that piece of information necessary? Why indeed was it so prominently displayed on two fairly big banners on either side of the Mazu shrine? Was it a way to stand out among the many cultural practices, the dragons, the snakes, the costumes that after a while seemed to blend into and become indistinguishable from each other? Was it going to add any cultural capital to the display of Mazu (culture) at the parade?
Well, perhaps it means nothing at all. But the fact that the Fujianese were the only group that used the UNESCO label at the parade seemed at least peculiar. And it certainly hints at what may be waiting for me in China in terms of the many ways in which the UNESCO ICH Convention impacts cultural practices.
Institut national du patrimoine, Séminaire de recherche
30 janvier 2017, INP, 2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, salle Champollion, 18h15
Chiara Bortolotto, Anthropologue, responsable du projet UNESCO frictions : heritage-making across global governance, et Claire Bosc-Tiessé, historienne de l’art, chercheur au CNRS, affiliée à l’IMAF (institut des mondes africains), co-directrice du projet archéologique et historique « Lalibela »
UNESCO FRICTIONS : explorer la fabrique globale du patrimoine culturel immatériel
Cette intervention présente le projet UNESCO frictions : heritage-making across global governance. A partir d’une discussion des travaux existants sur l’Unesco et ses effets, nous allons introduire la démarche adoptée dans ce projet collectif visant à suivre la vie sociale de la Convention pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel immatériel dès débats diplomatiques dans les salles de réunion de l’Unesco à la mise en œuvre de projets patrimoniaux à l’échelle locale dans trois pays (Grèce, Brésil et Chine) choisis comme études de cas en fonction de la diversité de leurs régimes patrimoniaux nationaux. Pour dépasser l’opposition entre « norme globale » et « réactions locales » et explorer la fabrique globale du patrimoine, nous proposons d’interroger la tension créative qui surgit lorsque des régimes de patrimonialité spécifiques doivent se confronter aux principes proposés par une norme internationale.