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.

Les politiques de l’UNESCO, quelles répercussions sur les projets de restauration ?

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.

Master « Ethnological expertise Intangible Heritage »

Roda de Capoeira in Salvador, Bahia. Photo: Pierre VergerThe University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès has launched a new master programme. UNESCO frictions is part of this project.

Here is the web site of the master

On November 23-24 Morena Salama, postdoctoral researcher at UNESCO frictions, will give the seminar:

Inventorying, proclaiming, assisting and promoting: the complementary lines of action of the Brazilian safeguarding regime.

The Brazilian safeguarding policy started to be structured just before the drafting of UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the safeguarding of ICH. This pioneering role rendered a different focus to the Brazilian safeguarding regime. Instead of targeting into the international heritarization, such as the inscription of elements in the Representative List of the 2003 Convention, the Brazilian state has been concentrating its efforts on the proclamation of the Brazilian cultural references as National Cultural Heritage (a process called locally as “Registry”) and on the implementation of safeguarding measures after the national heritarization takes place.

By the time Brazil ratified the 2003 Convention, the participative shift introduced by this international treaty found a fertile terrain to be developed. Since then the main lines of action of the Brazilian safeguarding regime – inventorying, proclaiming, assisting and promoting, – have been implemented aiming at increasing the level of participation of the bearers’ communities, so they can become the “protagonists” of their own safeguarding process.

This course explores how this participative approach has been put into practice in the country. Initially these main lines of action will be examined as complementary steps of the same safeguarding process. Subsequently several concrete cases will be analysed and compared with the view of identifying how the bearer’s communities are involved in each case. The safeguarding processes to be presented are: the craft of ceramic pans of Goiabeiras; the Kusiwa graphic art, the samba de roda; the craft of baianas de acarajé; the Taper of Our Lady of Nazareth, the Yaokwa ritual, the capoeira and the fabrication of the viola de cocho.



Atelier sur la mise en œuvre de la Convention de l’Unesco pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel immatériel

img_424224-28 octobre, Saint-Denis de la Réunion

L’objectif de cet atelier, organisé par le Centre Français du Patrimoine culturel immatériel en collaboration avec la Région Réunion et avec le soutien du ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, est de familiariser les participants avec les principes et les mécanismes de la Convention pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel immatériel.

Les participants à la formation sont les acteurs impliqués dans la pratique, transmission, gestion et mise en valeur du patrimoine immatériel : fonctionnaires, étudiants, professionnels du patrimoine, représentants d’associations, spécialistes de la communication et porteurs du patrimoine.