International Workshop – Resilience and Marketisation: Uses of Intangible Cultural Heritage in times of economic “crisis”

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

Download the programme here

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.

European Year for Cultural Heritage 2018 Information Event (Athens, 18/12/2017)

The Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage (DMCH) organised the Cultural Heritage Information Event in order to inform about the European Year for Cultural Heritage 2018 cultural associations, the local governance and institutions working on tourism, “traditional agro-food producers”, environmental education centres and other heritage-related institutions. There, the DMCH informed the attendees about i) what the European Year for Cultural Heritage 2018 is, ii) the procedure of how heritage related organisation could incorporate their events and activities in the schedule of the activities of the European Year for Cultural Heritage 2018 and be allowed to use its logo, and iii) how the institutions could collaborate with DMCH in the valorisation of Intangible Cultural Heritage through these activities.

The event attracted many representatives of Intangible Cultural Heritage institutions which have inscribe an element on (Greek) National list of Intangible Cultural Heritage as well as others who are working towards the inscriptions of an element. The audience had many questions and was keen to receive the European Year for Cultural Heritage as it was seen as a way to disseminate their activities, help the safeguarding of their element and possibly attract some economic capital that will be ‘invested’ in safeguarding activities.

It was an event which the UNESCO Friction project was present looking at the ways that the implementation of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage could crossover with European policies and their implementation. 2018 will be a very active year in Europe that discussions about Cultural Heritage will reemerge and the UNESCO Friction project will continue to analyse the creative frictions which will arise from the crossovers of transnational policies with National ones as well as with practices of the local actors.

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