Conference on “Agro-food Traditions as Cultural Heritage: Research, Safeguarding, Promotion” at the Agricultural University of Athens, Athens 19/05/2017

Last week,  the conference on  “Agro-food Traditions as Cultural Heritage: Research, Safeguarding, Promotion” took place at the Conference Lecture Theatre of the Agricultural University of Athens. The event was organised by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage (DMCA&ICH) of the Ministry of Culture and Sport in collaboration with the Agricultural University of Athens. The conference attracted many local producers as well as academics and students (undergraduates and postgraduates) from the Department of Science of Nutrition and Dietetics (Harokopio University), MA in Folklore and Education of the Department of Primary Education (University of Athens), MA in Folklore Studies-Theory and Application of the Folk Culture of the School of Philosophy (University of Athens) and from the Agricultural University of Athens.

The slide reads: Pastoral festivities – Pig-slaughterhouses

The conference became a meeting point to bring closer academia, cultural administrators and decision makers relevant to Agro-food ICH (DMCA&ICH, the Ministry of Agriculture, and museums), producers and students. Most of the presentations highlighted Greek Agro-food products without showing how are they are also part of a local Intangible Cultural Heritage. However, this made the need for interdisciplinary collaboration apparent and it was discussed during the workshops that began after the end of the main presentations. During one of the parallel workshops entitled “Research and Promoting of the local Agro-food Traditions”, various successful collaborations of folklore researchers with agro-food scientists were presented. This acted as a guide for future successful collaborations and as a prime example of how agro-food Traditions can be understood as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Workshop: “Presentation of European and Local Programmes and Policies that are related to the Promotion and the Funding of Proposals for the Recognition of the Agro-food Traditions as Intangible Cultural Heritage”

The other parallel workshop was entitled “Presentation of European and Local Programmes and Policies that are related to the Promotion and the Funding of Proposals for the Recognition of the Agro-food Traditions as Intangible Cultural Heritage”. The centre of the discussions was the possibilities and the procedures that entrepreneurs and organisations have to follow in order to attain funding successfully. However, funding and sustainability were topics that were discussed or mentioned numerously in the conference and not only to this workshop since it was one of the main concerns of the audience.At the end of the conference, representatives of the DMCA&ICH made an open call towards the audience: “we would like to give an opportunity to the students and other specialised scientists to become Cultural Brokers {mentioned both in English and in Greek}” between the holders of Agro-food Traditions and the policy makers. They also explained that their intention “is to open the field of folklore to the public (δημόσια Λαογραφία)” and they are keen to support every individual or organisation that is interested in engaging in the field of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The complete programme of the conference (in Greek) can be found on the website of the DMCA&ICH: http://ayla.culture.gr/?p=773

Intangible Cultural Heritage “Information and Awareness Raising Event”, Nestáni, Peloponnese 22/4/2017

Interview of the Director of DMCA&ICH to a journalist of the National Television Channel. On the left, a visual anthropologist was recording the event.

One day before the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ (το εθίμου του Αγιώργη), the most important event of the year for the Nestánians, the Intangible Cultural Heritage “Information and Awareness Raising Event” took place at Nestáni, a village of 669 permanent residents (2011 National consensus). Despite the rainy and cold spring weather, the room that the event took place was crowded by the locals, politicians and the media (including press from the National television channel) (pictures 1 & 2).

The event was co-organised by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage (DMCA&ICH) of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, The Administrative Region of Peloponnese, the Municipality of Tripolis, the Nestáni Progressive Association and the Nestáni Association for the Support of Local Customs and Research. The first aim of the event was “the presentation of the [2003] Convention for the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the possibilities that offer to the local communities for the study, safeguarding and the promotion of their ICH” (http://ayla.culture.gr/?p=757). As in most Information and Awareness Raising Events, Ms Villy Fotopoulou, the Director of DMCA&ICH, opened the floor and explained the 2003 Convention to the audience.

The second aim was the discussion and safeguarding of the annual ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ and its potential inscription on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory. In contrast to the last Information and Awareness Raising Event that conducted in Crete (https://frictions.hypotheses.org/349), in Nestáni the speakers were the local MPs, the presidents of the cultural associations, the priest and the president of the village and other political figures. All the speakers highlighted the importance of the inscription of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’. Some of the speakers focused on the “amount of cultural heritage that exists in the village”, while others talked about the custom or how the village will be recognised by its inscription. When the speakers finished, the audience left satisfied discussing their ‘customs’ and the future inscription of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory.

The local priest

After the end of the event, some villagers stayed behind with representatives of one of the cultural associations which contribute on the organisation of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’. A heated debate broke out arguing if a horse would participate in the Custom since it is a newer addition to it. Although the horse was added some years ago and no one opposed to it, that time the Custom would be recorded as part of an ethnographic documentary. Some of the villagers wanted to “preserve it in its authentic way, as it was done at the times of our mothers and grandfathers”. The rest of the villagers were arguing for the dynamic aspects of the tradition, but no agreement came between them. The convener of the discussion invited the representatives if the DMCA&ICH to give a solution. The representatives explained to the villagers that they have no right to decide for their traditions while they reinforce the idea that the traditions are dynamic and they are changing and evolve as time passes. The time passed, and the villagers left without knowing what would happen the next day. When the morning came, the ‘frictions’ continued, and the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ took place with even more changes than the last year since the villagers tried to do their best to safeguard it against the others who had a different interpretation of safeguarding.

A brief video which shows parts of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’: https://youtu.be/7ARPXf2n8cw?t=2m13s

Intangible Cultural Heritage “Information and Awareness Raising Event”, Agios Nikolaos, Crete 5/4/2017

Working on the UNESCO Frictions project, I attend Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) related events in Greece. This event was organised by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage (DMCA&ICH) of the Ministry of Culture and Sport in collaboration with the Region of Crete – Lasithi Regional Unity and with the support of the Cultural Associations of the Prefecture of Lasithi.

“The event [was] addressed to local authorities of Eastern Crete (municipalities, development companies, etc.), national and cultural associations and local folklore, historical and other museums and archives of the island, as well as those involved in the recording and study of the folk culture and traditions of Crete, but also to anyone interested in it.

On Wednesday 5/4/2017 [they had] the opportunity to discuss the various aspects of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Eastern Crete, the possibilities offered by the [2003] Convention for the promotion of these cultural traditions and their use for the benefit of the sustainable development of the local communities.” (DMCA&ICH website)

The locals replied to the invitation arriving from much earlier to the room and very soon many people were standing at the back since all the chairs were full. The event began with the Director of DMCA&ICH, Ms Villy Fotopoulou, presenting the 2003 Convention as well as how the DMCA&ICH implements the Convention. Soon after representatives of local ‘communities’ who are preparing a submission or already submitted an element to the DMCA&ICH for inscription on the National ICH lists, presented their work. This provided an example to other ‘communities’ on how to collaborate in order to also draft their own nominations for the inscription of their cultural elements on the National Inventory of the ICH. A few other presenters followed an alternative strategy and presented the actual elements and not the nomination procedure. The audience welcomed both presentation formats and stayed until the end of the event which closed with a brief discussion of the audience with the presenters.

This event was an opportunity for me to come in contact with Cretan cultural associations that engage with the implementation of the Convention. This first contact has already shown some ‘frictions’ between the various interpretations of the Convention by the various participants. These frictions will be explored further in following posts as the Greek part of the research project will start to unfold.

Participatory frictions across ICH global governance: The Brazilian channels of community participation

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.

Placing ICH, owning a tradition, affirming sovergnity: the role of spatiality in the practice of the ICH Convention

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.