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.

Culinary Frictions: Chinese Cuisine and the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Regime

Philipp Demgenski, paper presented at the Sun Yat-sen University Second International Conference on Food and Culture, Guangzhou, China. April 20-22, 2018.

Abstract:

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.