The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage heralded the beginning of a new era pertaining to global (and local) cultural politics. It clearly departed from previous definitions and understandings of cultural heritage, promoting a dynamic and subjective understanding of culture. According to the Convention, communities, groups and individuals —rather than the heritage experts— are supposed to recognise and identify ICH and work towards its safeguarding and management. Today, the Convention has already been ratified by 178 State Parties and the concept of ICH is globally operational. However, as the international standard encounters different national heritage regimes, many controversies and tensions arise pertaining to its interpretation, translation and actual implementation at local levels. Heritage actors in different countries are often struggling to reconcile already existing heritage frameworks with the principles of the ICH Convention, which frequently results in the global standard being subject to transformation and reconceptualisation in its implementation process.
These challenges become particularly noticeable in the encounter between the abstract ideals of the Convention and the concrete uses and manifestations of ICH in the context of the so-called “Greek crisis”. Times of “crises” can create momentum and become a ground for changes and for new decisions to be made. This is also valid in the field of ICH in which people as a response to the economic “crisis” heightened their engagement with ICH in connection to the market and as a device to build up resilience. This workshop will explore the economic aspects of ICH looking at how safeguarding plans introduce ICH into the market in the context of economic austerity. This is a controversial point in the implementation of the Convention because the market is regarded as a threat to ICH and, at the same time, as a tool that keeps heritage “living” and open to change. Within this context, tourism is a key example of the marketisation of ICH.
This workshop, organised by the project “UNESCO Frictions: heritage-making across global governance” and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris with the collaboration of the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Museum of Modern Greek Culture (Athens). The workshop took place on the 3rd and 4th of September 2019 at the lecture theatre of the Museum of Modern Greek Culture. The “UNESCO Frictions” project traces the social life of the UNESCO 2003 Convention, investigating the entire policy chain that links the international arena with national heritage institutions and local heritage programs in China, Greece and Brazil. This workshop is designed to bring together different actors involved in the ICH field in Greece—scholars, administrators, policy-makers and “heritage bearers”—to engage in a discussion on the uses of ICH in times of crisis. Specifically, the workshop wants to understand: how different ICH actors at different levels
- reconceptualise ICH to build up resilience in the context of economic austerity;
- frame ICH safeguarding and management in market and tourism
- are more broadly motivated by the “crisis” to engage with ICH
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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.
Philipp Demgenski, paper presented at the Sun Yat-sen University Second International Conference on Food and Culture, Guangzhou, China. April 20-22, 2018.
This paper focuses on the so far unsuccessful attempts to inscribe elements of Chinese cuisine on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). Food designated as heritage remains a controversial topic. It has sparked a heated debate among academics and heritage experts, while being embraced by state parties. Despite UNESCO’s ongoing reluctance to consider food-related nominations, many countries have managed to inscribe their cuisines or culinary items on the list (e.g. the French Gastronomic Meal, the Mediterranean diet, Kimchi, Washoku or Naples’ Pizza twirling). In China, a country proud of its culinary tradition and diversity, the question of how to prepare a successful cuisine-related bid has also prominently featured in public discourse. However, the Chinese government, in the form of the Ministry of Culture and its subordinate ICH Department, has not yet chosen to participate in the global race for culinary ICH status. This makes it different from other already successfully inscribed food elements that were mainly top-down state-driven projects. Nevertheless, there are many ICH food nomination initiatives in China coming from private businesses, local governments and the China Cuisine Association (CCA), a commercial association for the Chinese food and catering industry, that try to find ways to indirectly make use of the ICH label and thus capitalize on some of the fame that comes with UNESCO inscription. In this paper, I discuss different actors’ ideas about food and heritage, how they conceive of culinary ICH and for what purposes they are pursuing it. I specifically present ethnographic data on the case of Confucian Family Cuisine (kongfucai), a cuisine that remains strikingly unknown to the general public, but was announced as a potential nomination for the UNESCO Representative list in 2015. It turned out to be an initiative mainly by private actors in Confucius’ birthplace Qufu who wanted to use the UNESCO label for promotion and branding purposes. The way in which actors behind the bid conceived and thought of ICH diverts from the idea of ICH as put forward by UNESCO in that the emphasis rested upon culinary standards, long traditions, techniques and skills and in that the pursuit of the ICH label was mainly for commercial reasons. This paper discusses some of the frictions that exist at the nodes where a global (food) heritage regime intersects with national and local heritage discourses and more fundamentally, also wishes to raise some questions pertaining to the ambiguous stance of UNESCO and the ICH regime towards commercialization and economic development.
Heritage economies and “sustainable” development as “a way out of the Greek Crisis”
17 January 2018, Eleusina – Greece
During the Greek economic crisis, media circulate many stereotypes that depict Greeks as lazy and refusing to work hard as other Europeans. However, the Greek Ministry of Culture (MoC) considers Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) as a tool to provide a solution to the economic crisis and the negative image of Greece. Based on this, the MoC has created a strategy focusing on the promotion of agro-food products and techniques as well as other traditional crafting techniques by inscribing them on an ICH list (national or international). The aim is that the inscriptions will become leverage for other public mechanisms (such as Erasmus+ funding) that will create new jobs for the communities. Moreover, the inscriptions will enhance the visibility of the communities that practice these ICH elements in order to attract more tourism, and strengthen the commerce and local economy. Furthermore, this also will highlight “the hard work of Greeks” and fight the stereotypes. However, using ICH for to enhance the local economy is a grey zone for UNESCO and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the ICH that is the main framework of MoC regarding ICH. This grey zone creates a space of creative frictions by allowing to the actors many interpretations of the Convention relating to the commercialisation of ICH. Thus, the current economic crisis becomes the motivation for individuals to highlight that Intangible Cultural Heritage can provide ways to overcomes difficulties by designing heritage-centred plans based ideas of (sustainable) development.