“Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development: Concepts, Uses and Challenges” Sesc Centro de Pesquisa e Formação – São Paulo, Brasil

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

International Workshop on “Intangible Cultural Heritage: Reconceptualization, Uses, Marketization” (18.-19. May 2019, Hangzhou, China)

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, more rigid definitions and understandings of cultural heritage, instead promoting an understanding of culture as evolving, integrated, subjective and diverse. According to the Convention, it is the communities, groups and individuals—the heritage “bearers”, not experts—that define ICH, imbue it with meaning and value and work towards its safeguarding and management. Today, the Convention has already been ratified by almost 180 State Parties and the concept of ICH is globally operational. However, as the international standard encounters respective 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 reconceptualization in its implementation process.

The challenges and paradoxes become particularly noticeable in the encounter between the abstract ideal and the concrete uses and manifestations of ICH. One specific and often-discussed issue here concerns the marketization and economic considerations in and of ICH. This is because ICH is by definition “living heritage,” it belongs to its “bearers” and is deeply entangled with their daily lives. Unlike tangible heritage, it is also explicitly allowed to change over time. Hence, as long as it is some “bearers’” wish, marketization may be perfectly in line with the spirit of ICH. At the same time, however, heritage policy-makers, administrators and experts often stress that uses of ICH for the market must be avoided, with the boundaries between what might be acceptable degrees of marketization and what would be over-marketization remaining anything but clear-cut. Similar situations and debates exist pertaining to the issue of staging ICH, which often detaches cultural practices from their original environments and contexts and explicitly turns ICH into a tourism resource.

This workshop is the outcome of a collaboration between the “UNESCO Friction” project based at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris, France and the Institute of Anthropology of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. Researchers on both sides have engaged in empirical studies on how the concept of ICH is operationalized and put into practice, including the many challenges that this involves. The “UNESCO Friction” project explicitly 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. Researchers at Zhejiang University have conducted studies on how ICH is implemented in China at national and local levels. We both believe in an engaged approach to the study of ICH and so this workshop is designed to bring together different actors involved in the ICH field—scholars, administrators, policy-makers and “bearers”—to engage in a discussion and exchange about the tensions that exist between the normative ideas and principles underlying ICH on the one hand and its uses and manifestations on the other. The workshop aims at generating a better understanding of what the challenges are that different involved actors at different levels face in bringing to life an idea that was conceived at the global level and subsequently travels down to national and local levels, often being appropriated, reinterpreted and even transformed in the process. Specifically, the workshop wants to understand: how do different ICH actors at different (administrative) levels and in different capacities

  • reconceptualize ICH?
  • use ICH for the market in the context of its safeguarding and management?
  • evaluate/assess the marketization of ICH?

To address these questions, the workshop includes, but is not limited to the following five themes:

  1. Understandings of ICH and its market uses at different (administrative) levels.
  2. Community participation: marketization as heritage self-determination.
  3. Staging intangible cultural heritage and tourism.
  4. Transmitters of ICH: Benefits, reputation and competition.
  5. Cultural Industry: Intangible Cultural Heritage Production-oriented Safeguarding Bases (非物质文化遗产生产性保护基地).

International Journal of Cultural Property

Volume 25 – Issue 4 – November 2018

Editorial: Foodways as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Chiara Bortolotto, Benedetta Ubertazzi 

Mapping the Potential Interactions between UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Regime and World Trade Law

Tomer Broude

Food As a Collective Heritage Brand in the Era of Globalization

Julia Csergo  

Food as Heritage and Multi-Level International Legal Governance

Lucas Lixinski

Japan’s Washoku as Intangible Heritage: The Role of National Food Traditions in UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage Scheme

Voltaire Cang

Safeguarding the Art of Pizza Making: Parallel Use of the Traditional Specialities GuaranteedScheme and the UNESCO Intangible Heritage Convention

Harriet Deacon 


Select How to Protect Traditional Food and Foodways Effectively in Terms of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Intellectual Property Laws in the Republic of Korea

Gyooho Lee 

From the Mediterranean Diet to the Diaita: The Epistemic Making of a Food Label

Antonio José Marques da Silva

Issue available here:https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-journal-of-cultural-property/issue/A36590C2174AAE38DEACB35E5E73FBC1.

#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.