Association of Critical Heritage Studies, Hangzhou, China, 1-6 September 2018


UNESCO frictions: the social lives of international heritage norms

UNESCO heritage policies are often associated with the spectre of cultural globalisation grounded on what Michael Herzfeld calls a  “global hierarchy of values”. Indeed, anthropological research on the social impact of the inscription on UNESCO World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage lists provides evidence of the “UNESCOisation” (Berliner 2012) of local ways of representing culture and conceiving cultural transmission and emphasizes the top-down influence of “good” governance international principles on local logics and priorities.

At the same time, a close analysis of the institutional mechanisms and procedures underpinning the whole chainof the implementation of UNESCO heritage conventions sheds light on the agency of particular human and nonhuman actors involved in this process across the different scales of UNESCO-driven heritage governance : laws, institutions, policies, civil servants, local authorities, heritage experts, civil society, heritage “bearers”.

This session explores this agency, showing how international norms come to life through their national and local interpretations, uses and adaptations to different political, institutional, economic and socio-cultural situations.This session aims at exploring the different lives of international heritage norms focusing on the original outcome of the encounter between their universal aspirations and the diversity of the interpretations given to them, that is to say the “creative friction” (Tsing 2005) whichmakes these lives possible. We are interested in analyses that unpack the global/local dialectic looking in particular at the complex process of legislative, institutional, social and cultural translationsthat simultaneously globalize and localize international policies. How does the travel of an international standard change its meaning? How does an international norm engage and compromise with existing heritage regimes? What does the complexity of these practical interconnections tell us about the universal ambitions of global heritage governance?

Introduction (Chiara Bortolotto École des Hautes Études enSciences Sociales) 

ICH Backstage: Navigating the Heritage Bureaucracy in China (Philipp Demgenski École des Hautes Études enSciences Sociales)

Mobilizing for ICH safeguarding: The political and social  indigenization of UNESCO norms in China (Christina Maags SOAS, University of London)

When the connections are not obvious: diverted meanings in heritage-making between the global, the national and the local in Brazil (Simone Toji Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN) École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS))

Following the 2003 Convention social life in the Portuguese panorama ( Ana Carvalho, University of Évora, Portugal)

Intangible Heritage (Contra)Versions: From ‘Folklore’ into Best Safeguarding Practices (Pedro Antunes ISCTE-IUL; FCSH-UN

Space F(r)ictions. The Politics of Scale and the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage List (Bernard Debarbiex & Hervé Munz, University of Geneva)

The Flight of the Condor: A Letter, a Song, and a Couple of Lessons on Intangible Cultural Heritage (Valdimar Tr. Hafstein University of Iceland)

“Collaborative dilemmas” in the age of uncertainty – Virtual roundtable on Allegralab

Against the backdrop of increasing projectization and casualization of research, academic insecurity, and existential anxiety for new generations of researchers, collaborative research with international organizations, state agencies or NGOs takes on the corollary function of providing professional status and remunerated jobs that universities do not offer to the growing academic precariat.

A virtual roundtable is now open on Allegralab to interrogate the effects of collaboration between anthropologists and their elite interlocutors on research design, practice and outcomes.

If you are ready to to share your anxiety and disclose your collaborative dilemmas, please join the conversation. Write a comment or send a detailed response to submissions@allegralaboratory.net. Any kind of contribution is welcome!