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