Fossilisation, Commercialisation or Participation? Exhibiting Intangible Cultural Heritage in China

By Philipp Demgenski

Paper presented at the “Museum Collection, Exhibition and Interpretation: in Anthropological Perspective” Museum Anthropology Conference organised the Chinese National Museum of Ethnology, held in Beijing, China, August 1-2, 2017.

Abstract:

The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has opened up a discursive space and provided a distinct value framework to state parties, enabling them to conceive, define and appraise their Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). The Convention can thus not merely be seen as a neutral tool to identify and safeguard existing cultural practices and traditions, it has to also be regarded as an active agent in (re)shaping and (re)making “culture” under the label of ICH. In China, for instance, ICH or what is locally known as feiyi (非遗) introduced a new category, a new value system, under which different stakeholders (government, scholars and bearers alike) have been able to operate and get a grip on what was previously indistinctly labelled as “folk culture” (民间文化) or “folk ways” (民俗). It is for this reason that the question of how to exhibit ICH can only be addressed with reference to and within the specific context of the Convention. Based on currently ongoing ethnographic research on the implementation of the Convention in China, in this paper, I discuss different forms and contexts in which ICH is being exhibited and displayed in China. I provide examples from so-called ICH Exposition Parks (非物质文化遗产博览园), Cultural Theme Parks, Ecological and other Museums. I show that the majority of these ways of exhibiting ICH either lead to the fossilisation or to the commercialisation of a given ICH element or to both. I also show that the participation, as defined by the Convention, of the heritage bearers is often only minimal. In this regard, ICH as it manifests itself through exhibitions and displays in China diverts from the spirit of the Convention that particularly emphasises the widest possible participation of ICH communities, groups or individuals in the maintenance, transmission and management of heritage. However, viewed from a different perspective, in the context of China’s larger development and modernisation programme, ICH exhibitions actually offer heritage bearers an opportunity to actively participate in and benefit from national economic development.

 

Safeguarding measures for the recognized ICH

By Morena Salama and Natalia Brayner

This panel will be held on June 21st , in Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais, Brazil) during the Seminar “ Intangible Cultural Heritage – impacts and repercussions from the recognition”, organized by IPHAN, The National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage. This seminar is part of the 50th Edition of Winter Festival of Ouro Preto. The panel will explore the implementation of safeguarding measures for intangible elements declared as national cultural heritage. Having in mind the measures carried out by IPHAN from 2004 to 2014, Salama will present the construction, application and the findings of the methodology for the evaluation and monitoring of the safeguarding processes set after an element is recognized as national cultural heritage.

For more information and the Seminar Programme (in Portuguese): http://festivaldeinverno.feop.com.br/evento/206

An Urban Neighbourhood is Trapped in Transformation: The Past and Present of Old Qingdao (城市空间的转型困境:青岛老城区的历史与近况)

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).

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.

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

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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.