#PizzaUnesco or the embarrassment of heritage alienability

Food as a cultural heritage: challenges, processes and perspectives

Conference organised by the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA, Tours, France)


In its classic definition, heritage is the inalienable possession of a group, often imagined as a nation. With intangible cultural heritage (ICH), UNESCO introduced key shifts in this understanding. Based on ethnographic observations of the meetings of the statutory organs of the Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage and focusing in particular on the case of the “Art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo”, this paper explores the controversies generated among heritage policy-makers and administrators by « risks of over-commercialisation » of ICH. For heritage entrepreneurs denying commercial dimensions is nothing but prudery. How is this economic component, intrinsic to many ICH elements, articulated with the heritage one in UNESCO narratives? How is the “paradox” of alienable heritage affecting our representations and uses of it? How does the definition of heritage as a community resource, rather than a national symbol, affect its commodification? I argue that the embarrassment prompted among heritage policy-makers and implementers by the overlapping of commercial and heritage values reveals the liminal nature of ICH and its potential to mirror broader social, economic and political aspects of neoliberal globalisation.

Association of Critical Heritage Studies, Hangzhou, China, 1-6 September 2018


Session Title:

The Global Intangible Cultural Heritage Regime and the Politics of Community Participation in China

Philipp Demgenski

Since ratifying the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in 2004, China has embraced local culture as an important resource for domestic social and economic development and has been eagerly submitting its ICH elements to be included in the international lists. In this process, the participation of communities, groups and individuals in heritage safeguarding and management– a key idea and defining feature of the 2003 Convention– must be demonstrated and complied with.

In China, min (民), the word for people, is a central and frequently used term and notions such as “folk culture” (minjian wenhua), “ethnic culture” (minzu wenhua) or “folkways” (minsu) are inherently part of the Chinese ICH discourse. This focus on min as the fundamental component of ICH resonates with the UNESCO concept of “community” as the bearer of heritage. But how and to what extent are the ideas of min and “community” actually similar or different? And how is the concept of “community participation” (shequ canyu) localized in China?

This session discusses and scrutinises how the UNESCO ideas of “community” and “community participation” are translated into practice in China, whether and how they may divert from indigenous understandings and how they are understood, interpreted and utilised at different administrative scales and among different ICH stakeholders, at the national/institutional level, among heritage experts or at the level of so-called communities. We particularly investigate case studies on ICH elements that are prepared by China for submission to UNESCO and on those that have already been inscribed on one of the lists. We also particularly welcome contributions on different geographical regions in China.

This session is based on the premise that the notions of “community” and “participation” are never unproblematic or neutral, but inherently political. So instead of asking questions about the efficacy of community participation in heritage safeguarding or whether communities are really empowered by the Convention, what we would like to address and investigate are questions of what community participation actually means to different ICH stakeholders, how the idea is used and for what purposes, who benefits from it and in what ways. In short, we are looking to gain a better understanding of how the 2003 UNESCO Convention shapes and informs a distinctive politics of community participation at national and local levels in contemporary China.

The Participatory Principle in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and in China: An Introduction (Philipp Demgenski)

Mass Participation and Commodification of Intangible Cultural Heritage: A Case Study of Quyang’s Stone-Carving Skills in Heibei, China. (Prof. Selina Ching Chan)

Fading Divinity and Rising Glory: Rediscovering “Huangshan” in a Heritage Context (Dr. Luo Pan)

“Leaning on the Big Tree, Sheltering with its Shade”: Mazu as Intangible Cultural Heritage and Local Temple Reconstructions (Dr. Huijuan Ma)

Making “Community” in the Context of Patrimonialization: A Case Study of the Dance of Nuo in Leizhou Peninsula (Shanshan Zheng)

Contested Communities: Negotiating the Politics of Participation in Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding in a Yao Village in Guangdong, China (Daina Chen)

Universe, Windmill, Museum: Diverse Ways of Intangible Cultural Heritage Knowledge Production (Wu Jie)

Association of Critical Heritage Studies, Hangzhou, China, 1-6 September 2018


UNESCO frictions: the social lives of international heritage norms

UNESCO heritage policies are often associated with the spectre of cultural globalisation grounded on what Michael Herzfeld calls a  “global hierarchy of values”. Indeed, anthropological research on the social impact of the inscription on UNESCO World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage lists provides evidence of the “UNESCOisation” (Berliner 2012) of local ways of representing culture and conceiving cultural transmission and emphasizes the top-down influence of “good” governance international principles on local logics and priorities.

At the same time, a close analysis of the institutional mechanisms and procedures underpinning the whole chainof the implementation of UNESCO heritage conventions sheds light on the agency of particular human and nonhuman actors involved in this process across the different scales of UNESCO-driven heritage governance : laws, institutions, policies, civil servants, local authorities, heritage experts, civil society, heritage “bearers”.

This session explores this agency, showing how international norms come to life through their national and local interpretations, uses and adaptations to different political, institutional, economic and socio-cultural situations.This session aims at exploring the different lives of international heritage norms focusing on the original outcome of the encounter between their universal aspirations and the diversity of the interpretations given to them, that is to say the “creative friction” (Tsing 2005) whichmakes these lives possible. We are interested in analyses that unpack the global/local dialectic looking in particular at the complex process of legislative, institutional, social and cultural translationsthat simultaneously globalize and localize international policies. How does the travel of an international standard change its meaning? How does an international norm engage and compromise with existing heritage regimes? What does the complexity of these practical interconnections tell us about the universal ambitions of global heritage governance?

Introduction (Chiara Bortolotto École des Hautes Études enSciences Sociales) 

ICH Backstage: Navigating the Heritage Bureaucracy in China (Philipp Demgenski École des Hautes Études enSciences Sociales)

Mobilizing for ICH safeguarding: The political and social  indigenization of UNESCO norms in China (Christina Maags SOAS, University of London)

When the connections are not obvious: diverted meanings in heritage-making between the global, the national and the local in Brazil (Simone Toji Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN) École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS))

Following the 2003 Convention social life in the Portuguese panorama ( Ana Carvalho, University of Évora, Portugal)

Intangible Heritage (Contra)Versions: From ‘Folklore’ into Best Safeguarding Practices (Pedro Antunes ISCTE-IUL; FCSH-UN

Space F(r)ictions. The Politics of Scale and the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage List (Bernard Debarbiex & Hervé Munz, University of Geneva)

The Flight of the Condor: A Letter, a Song, and a Couple of Lessons on Intangible Cultural Heritage (Valdimar Tr. Hafstein University of Iceland)

Negotiating methods and navigating positions: between expertise and research on UNESCO heritage policies

Kristin Kuutma and Chiara Bortolotto

This paper presents a first reflexive analysis of collaboration with our research partners within the UNESCO apparatus as a methodological approach to study International Organisations. By investigating UNESCO from within, we contemplate a world organisation as a field and elaborate on the method and accountability of anthropological approach. The discipline of social anthropology holds the study of organisations at the heart and has a long record of exploring organisations as sites where systems of meaning are produced and circulated. Our analysis is based on long lasting fieldwork and observant collaboration to explore policy-making and governance related to the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). For us, the field has been a site for collecting data as well as a space that embodies strategic intervention in organisational activities, which allowed us to investigate procedural and arbitrational mechanisms or negotiations in order to unravel the entanglement of relationships at play and to recognize also subjective factors in the process. The international policy setting scene of the Intergovernmental Committee meetings to the Convention and its subsequent ad hoc consultative or subsidiary bodies becomes extended to organisational formats and policy-setting activities for implementing the Convention. By drawing on our outsider inquisitive perspective and insider collaborative approach, we propose to unravel different aspects and diverse experience in collaborating with the UN staff. We pose questions about positionality and the process of reflexive knowledge production.

 

We don’t need any safeguarding. We’re already doing this’: Grassroots and State safeguarding “Intangible Cultural Heritage” practices and plans for Greek Aeróphona (bagpipes)

Panas Karampampas and Panayiota Andrianopoulou, RAI2018: Art, Materiality and Representation Conference, Royal Anthropological Institute, The Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas of The British Museum and the Department of Anthropology at SOAS, London, UK 1-3 June 2018.

The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) requires from countries that have ratified the convention to plan and support the safeguarding of elements, which the state has recognised as ICH. In parallel to this scheme, safeguarding practices are done by individuals and groups, which in some cases are not informed or deliberately ignore the Convention. This is the case of Greek Aeróphona that revitalises the practice of Greek bagpipes. Central to this is the use of social media by Greek Aeróphona in organising their activities and disseminating and embodying their craft. However, the Greek State is currently starting the process of engaging Aeróphona musicians and crafters to discuss and create a safeguarding plan, aiming to inscribe Greek Aeróphona on the National ICH list. A part of bagpipers and crafters are against this for various reasons while others are not informed about the intention of the State. We examine and compare the safeguarding practices of the actors engage with this ICH elements as well as the creative frictions between them.