When research impacts governance unintentionally

By Simone Toji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In being simultaneously an official responsible for the national intangible cultural heritage policy in São Paulo/ Brazil and a researcher of the UNESCO frictions project, some activities I get involved may gain unexpected developments.

Because one of the main questions in the project refers to the problem of scales, I began by observing the intangible cultural heritage policies at the municipal and state level in São Paulo.

In Brazil, cities and states are autonomous bodies that together with the federal government compose the Federative Republic of Brazil. In this way, cities and states have their own executive, legislative and legal branches, which are concurrent to and, to a certain extent, independent from the federal government.

In the case of the intangible cultural heritage, cities and states in Brazil are creating their own intangible cultural heritage initiatives.

Historically, the Brazilian federal government, through its Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN), was the first to establish an intangible cultural heritage policy with national scope in 2000. Since then, numerous cities and states in Brazil have been tailoring their own local and regional policies.

The city of São Paulo and the state of São Paulo are examples of this tendency. Both of them approved legislation towards intangible cultural heritage in 2007 and 2011 respectively.

In order to understand how intangible cultural heritage policies were being developed at the state and municipal levels, I requested access to materials and files at the organisations appointed to implement the mentioned policies. The Departamento do Patrimônio Histórico (DPH) works on the municipal level, while the Unidade de Preservação  do Patrimônio Histórico (UPPH), on the state one.

My visits to learn from the documents of these two organisations raised the interest from DPH’s and UPPH’s directors and officials for establishing a partnership with IPHAN, as I am an IPHAN’s civil servant too. Staff from both organisations believes that IPHAN has a more consolidated intangible cultural heritage policy and assume that they can gain expertise from IPHAN’s experience.

For IPHAN, this can be an opportunity to discuss cultural heritage policies as a system of collaboration and possible distribution of responsibilities in the field of intangible cultural heritage governance.

The convergence of all these interests led to the installation of a work group on intangible cultural heritage in São Paulo on the 3rd of August 2017 under an agreement between IPHAN, DPH and UPPH, comprising officials from the three organisations.

This repercussion provides some food for thought. An UNESCO frictions project’s research activity – gathering documentation – resulted in the administrative decision of establishing collaboration between the three governmental organisations responsible for intangible cultural heritage policies at different levels in the national governance scale. As I am one of the appointed officials to participate in the work group as IPHAN representative, being at the same time a researcher in the UNESCO frictions project as well, some questions emerge:

  • Can my research abilities contribute to provide good and feasible proposals for the work group?
  • Can the experiences at the work group offer opportunities to observe phenomena on the topic of scales that otherwise would not be available?
  • At what points are the positions of official and researcher convergent or divergent?
  • Can my colleagues in the work group become research partners?

These will be some interrogations to be faced from now on by me and the work group.