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Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage

Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage

Michelle L. Stefano
Peter Davis
Gerard Corsane
Volume: 8
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage
    Book Description:

    Awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) has recently grown, due to the promotional efforts of UNESCO and its Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003). However, the increased recognition of intangible heritage has brought to light its undervalued status within the museum and heritage sector, and raised questions about safeguarding efforts, ownership, protective legal frameworks, authenticity and how global initiatives can be implemented at a local level, where most ICH is located. This book provides a variety of international perspectives on these issues, exploring how holistic and integrated approaches to safeguarding ICH offer an opportunity to move beyond the rhetoric of UNESCO; in partiular, the authors demonstrate that the alternative methods and attitudes that frequently exist at a local level can be the most effective way of safeguarding ICH. Perspectives are presented both from "established voices", of scholars and practitioners, and from "new voices", those of indigenous and local communities, where intangible heritage lives. It will be an important resource for students of museum and heritage studies, anthropology, folk studies, the performing arts, intellectual property law and politics. Michelle Stefano is Folklorist-in-Residence, University of Maryland Baltimore County; Peter Davis is Professor of Museology, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University; Gerard Corsane is Senior Lecturer in Heritage, Museum and Galley Studies, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University. Contributors: Marilena Alivizatou, Alissandra Cummins, Kate Hennessey, Ewa Bergdahl, George Abungu, Shatha Abu-Khafajah, Shaher Rababeh, Vasant Hari Bedekar, Christian Hottin, Sylvie Grenet, Lyn Leader-Elliott, Daniella Trimboli, Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, Peter van Mensch, Andrew Dixey, Susan Keitumetse, Richard MacKinnon, Alexandra Denes, Christina Kreps, Harriet Deacon, D. Jared Bowers, Gerard Corsane, Paula Assuncao dos Santos, Elaine Müller, Michelle L. Stefano, Maurizio Maggi, Aron Mazel.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-862-9
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Michelle Stefano, Peter Davis and Gerard Corsane
  5. Touching the Intangible: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Michelle L Stefano, Peter Davis and Gerard Corsane

    The need to promote, protect and revitalise cultural expressions and practices of communities, groups and individuals from throughout the world is gaining an increasing amount of recognition and, thus, importance at international and national levels. Indeed, the contribution of culture to strengthening the livelihoods of people, as well as their agency within broader social, economic, political and environmental contexts, is an area that deserves greater attention. Viewed as the nuanced components of our cultural diversity, a great number of cultural expressions, or ‘intangible cultural heritage’, are considered to be threatened with extinction as a result of the homogenising forces of...

  6. Negotiating and Valuing the Intangible

    • 1 The Paradoxes of Intangible Heritage
      (pp. 9-22)
      Marilena Alivizatou

      There is little doubt that had it not been for the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and its work in the field, the concept of intangible cultural heritage would not feature as prominently in the international heritage scene as it does today. Plans and programmes aimed at safeguarding and documenting the intangible heritage of local communities have been drawn from the South Pacific island nations of Tonga and Vanuatu to Cambodia, Siberia, Scotland and the Indigenous communities of Peru and Ecuador, to mention just a few (for more details, see, accessed December 2009). This observation points,...

    • 2 Memory, Museums and the Making of Meaning: A Caribbean Perspective
      (pp. 23-32)
      Alissandra Cummins

      The Caribbean historian Dr Philip Sherlock posited that ‘There is no country called the West Indies … History and geography have combined in the Caribbean to make an island the symbol of national identity, a country whose frontiers were clearly marked out by the shoreline’ (Sherlock 1966, 7). The eponymous 1959 Federation Day Exhibition on Aspects of the History of the West Indies, designed by Dr Elsa Goveia, a young advocate/historian based at the department of history on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, was therefore expressly concerned to demonstrate the valid historical basis upon which...

    • 3 From Intangible Expression to Digital Cultural Heritage
      (pp. 33-46)
      Kate Hennessy

      In an article titled Oral Tradition and Material Culture: Multiplying Meanings of ‘Words’ and ‘Things’ (1992), anthropologist Julie Cruikshank explored a series of parallel issues of cultural representation in anthropology and museums. In a departure from established disciplinary approaches that had treated the analysis of oral tradition and material culture as separate fields of study, Cruikshank detailed some historical parallels between the collection, interpretation and exhibition of words and things: ‘both were originally treated as objects to be collected; then attention shifted to viewing words and things in context; recently they have been discussed as aspects of cultural performance, just...

    • 4 Conversation Piece: Intangible Cultural Heritage in Sweden
      (pp. 47-56)
      Ewa Bergdahl

      I have been involved in museum work in Sweden for the last 30 years in different positions, carrying out a variety of tasks. Independent of where or in which museum, intangible heritage has always been very important to me, because I regard it as creating the context and supplying the detailed knowledge for the interpretation of material culture and the environment. In other words, through ICH the physical objects and places come alive and their meaning and their history can be understood and interpreted.

      During my years as director of Ekomuseum Bergslagen in the late 1990s, this fact was most...

    • 5 Africa’s Rich Intangible Heritage: Managing a Continent’s Diverse Resources
      (pp. 57-70)
      George Abungu

      Africa is a continent endowed with a diverse and rich heritage that ranges from the cultural and natural to the immovable, movable and intangible. These manifestations are often intertwined through ways of living, believing, healing, dying and celebrating, to name a few. Most importantly, the heritage of Africa is also brought to life through the partnership of nature and culture, where the intangible gives meaning to the tangible and both provide Africa with its rhythmic cycles of life.

      For centuries, Africa’s diverse intangible heritage has shaped the world through processes such as diffusion, acculturation and influence, as well as through...

    • 6 The Silence of Meanings in Conventional Approaches to Cultural Heritage in Jordan: The Exclusion of Contexts and the Marginalisation of the Intangible
      (pp. 71-84)
      Shatha Abu-Khafajah and Shaher Rababeh

      This chapter identifies the intangible as being memories and stories involved in the meaning-making process of archaeological sites that are generally referred to as cultural heritage. These memories and stories are shaped and reshaped by local communities’ perceptions of, and experiences in, archaeological sites. They are also governed by contemporary contexts and cultures rather than intrinsic values that scholars assign to cultural heritage. In this sense, memories and stories anchor archaeological sites to the present and thereby transform them into cultural heritage. Thus, it is the intangible that makes the tangible material of the past meaningful for people.

      This chapter...

    • 7 Conversation Piece: Intangible Cultural Heritage in India
      (pp. 85-92)
      Vasant Hari Bedekar

      India’s rainbow peoples represent great diversity and their ICH appears interrelated and interdependent. Archaeological and historical evidence has provided us with an understanding of the successive periods of Indian history, which in turn facilitates reconstructions of our cultural history. However, recent research has focused on the cultural study of distinct communities and has yielded valuable insights into the contemporaneous aspects of tangible and intangible cultural heritages.

      Contemporary intangible cultural traditions have distinct observable forms and it is possible to consider them objectively as expressions of human behaviour. In India references are made to intangible cultural traditions in prestigious publications, but...

  7. Applying the Intangible Cultural Heritage Concept

    • 8 Reflections on the Implementation of the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France
      (pp. 95-110)
      Christian Hottin and Sylvie Grenet

      For the past decade a team of French anthropologists have worked together under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture in the Laboratoire d’anthropologie et d’histoire de l’institution de la culture (LAHIC) and successfully developed numerous research studies on the anthropology of heritage – that is, the study of heritage objects and policies using the tools of anthropology. These efforts have contributed to a better understanding of the relationship that local inhabitants have with historical sites, the role of archaeology in society and the history and evolution of social history museums. Research has also led to seminars on ‘heritage emotions’,...

    • 9 Government and Intangible Heritage in Australia
      (pp. 111-124)
      Lyn Leader-Elliott and Daniella Trimboli

      Australia’s response to ratifying the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has been cautious. Its original refusal to ratify the Convention appeared to soften with a change of national government in 2007, but in 2012 there is still no sign that Australia will become a party to the Convention.

      There has been a closed Federal government enquiry into ratification but no information relating to it has been publicly released (Cassidy 2010). The Federal focus is on issues relating to Australia’s Indigenous populations and not the many immigrant community cultures whose heritage could also be covered under...

    • 10 Proud to be Dutch? Intangible Heritage and National Identity in the Netherlands
      (pp. 125-136)
      Léontine Meijer-van Mensch and Peter van Mensch

      This paper builds on the distinction between three key stakeholders with regard to the preservation of heritage in general and intangible heritage (hereafter ICH) in particular. In particular, these are the source community itself, local and national authorities and heritage professionals. In the Netherlands, the debate surrounding ICH is rather recent. The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has stimulated discussion among professionals, but in a limited sense. In the last few years, however, the topic has been addressed by politicians and, as a consequence, ICH has entered public debate. In some ways, more than...

    • 11 Intangible Cultural Heritage in Wales
      (pp. 137-148)
      Andrew Dixey

      If the legendary visitor from Outer Space (or even a researcher from much nearer) tried to find an official definition of ICH in Wales, he or she would be sorely tested. The small amount of information regarding ICH that is available reminds one of the early encyclopaedia entry: ‘WALES, See ENGLAND’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1898, vol XXIV, 325). The influence of the ‘authorised heritage discourse’ (AHD) within the UK and the political implications of implementing the 2003 Convention keep the mainstream heritage sector very much based on the tangible (see Smith 2006). The dichotomy of tangible and intangible heritage described by...

    • 12 Conversation Piece: Intangible Cultural Heritage in Botswana
      (pp. 149-152)
      Susan Keitumetse

      I am currently a research scholar in cultural heritage tourism at the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute, Botswana. My interest in ICH spanned from my doctoral thesis, which was largely inspired by my disciplinary background in Archaeology and Environmental Sciences and Heritage and Museum Studies. Most of my archaeology (and consequently heritage) background tended to focus on tangible structures and, as I journeyed through my PhD thesis, it became apparent that, in order to achieve sustainable development in African cultural heritage management, a focus on both tangible and intangible aspects of heritage was inevitable. Since then, I have been...

    • 13 The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and its Implications for Sustaining Culture in Nova Scotia
      (pp. 153-162)
      Richard MacKinnon

      For many people in the Canadian government and civic society, ‘heritage’ means material ‘things’, including buildings, artefacts and important objects.₁ With respect to Nova Scotia, we have a Heritage Property Act (1989) and a Special Places Protection Act (1989) to ‘Provide for the Preservation, Regulation and Study of Archaeological and Historical Remains and Paleontological and Ecological Sites’. We also have numerous local, provincial and federal museums throughout the province that conduct research, conserve artefacts, produce exhibits and educate people about various aspects of Nova Scotia heritage, such as Les Trois Pignons Centre Culturel, the Museum of Industry and Pier 21,...

  8. On the Ground:: Safeguarding the Intangible

    • 14 Acquiring the Tools for Safeguarding Intangible Heritage: Lessons from an ICH Field School in Lamphun, Thailand
      (pp. 165-176)
      Alexandra Denes

      The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) represents a significant milestone in the field of cultural heritage management, insofar as it shifts attention to the importance of the intangible dimensions of culture, which has long been overshadowed by international heritage treaties focused on conserving material heritage. Apart from drawing attention to the oral narratives, performing arts, social practices and local knowledge and skills that constitute a vital source of the world’s cultural inheritance, the ICH Convention also marks an important turning point with regards to the approach to heritage management, inasmuch as it explicitly calls...

    • 15 Intangible Threads: Curating the Living Heritage of Dayak Ikat Weaving
      (pp. 177-194)
      Christina Kreps

      A few decades ago, the ikat weaving tradition of the Dayaks, the indigenous people of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), was considered a disappearing art (Gittinger 1979; Heppell 1994), but through the work of the Dayak Ikat Weaving Project based in Sintang, West Kalimantan, the tradition has been revived.

      This chapter considers the role the Weaving Project plays in the revitalisation and preservation of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) associated with Dayak weaving. The Project is examined in the light of preservation strategies recommended under the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage as well as Indonesian laws recently...

    • 16 Conversation Piece: Intangible Cultural Heritage in South Africa
      (pp. 195-200)
      Harriet Deacon

      I’m a historian with an interest in heritage policy, heritage management and the relationship between heritage and health issues. I got interested in intangible heritage through my work at Robben Island Museum since it is a World Heritage Site with associated intangible values. Then I became interested in the opportunities the 2003 Convention provides to take another look at methods of identification, community engagement, significance assessment and conservation/safeguarding of both tangible and intangible heritage.

      The Arts and Culture White Paper of 1996 defined heritage as including ‘oral traditions’. It states (art 5.2) that:

      Attention to living heritage is of paramount...

    • 17 Revitalising Amerindian Intangible Cultural Heritage in Guyana and its Value for Sustainable Tourism
      (pp. 201-212)
      D Jared Bowers and Gerard Corsane

      Within heritage management and museum work, there has traditionally been an emphasis on material culture and the immovable and movable tangible heritage resources. These resources include, for example, landscapes, the built environment, artefacts and a range of physical objects and material that people have produced. When intangible heritage resources have been consulted by heritage and museum practitioners, they were often used simply as a way of understanding and interpreting material culture and tangible heritage (Galla 2008). However, intangible cultural heritage (ICH) sources of evidence, as defined in the Introduction of this volume, are increasingly being viewed as significant and valuable...

    • 18 When ICH Takes Hold of the Local Reality in Brazil: Notes from the Brazilian State of Pernambuco
      (pp. 213-222)
      Paula Assunção dos Santos and Elaine Müller

      In Brazil, the field of heritage has undergone major transformations in the last decade. Important aspects of this change concern the increasing democratisation of heritage tools, as well as the rise of new stakeholders and their relationship with heritage policies. While these changes have occurred in other parts of the world, they have particular connotations in Brazil as social grass-root movements gain a more active role in the country’s cultural governance.

      The dramatic changes in the work with ICH also reflect the relevance of grass-root participation, as well as the impact of social demands on the development and execution of...

    • 19 Reconfiguring the Framework: Adopting an Ecomuseological Approach for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage
      (pp. 223-238)
      Michelle L Stefano

      As also noted by Alivizatou in this volume (Chapter 1), the 2003 Convention provides the structure of the current framework within which ICH is both conceptualised and managed at the international and national levels due to the fact that 142 States Parties have agreed to promote and safeguard it within their respective territories (UNESCO 2012). In this light, the methods, as well as suggestions, for safeguarding ICH that are put forward in this document are becoming increasingly dominant through their global acceptance and, thus, geographic expansion. However, as one of the core arguments of this chapter, safeguarding approaches need to...

    • 20 Conversation Piece: Intangible Cultural Heritage in Italy
      (pp. 239-246)
      Maurizio Maggi

      Since 1982 I have been a researcher within a government organisation, the Istituto Ricerche Economico Sociali del Piemonte, based in Turin, Northern Italy. Within this organisation, which is a section of the Piedmont regional government, I have focused to a large extent on local development and its relationship with the natural environment and heritage resources. Exploration of these kinds of relationships necessarily involves consideration of the concept of intangible heritages, including how they relate to economics. Intangible heritages are very important to the economy because of their connections to, for example, environmental quality and a sense of community; people need...

    • 21 Looking to the Future: The en-compass Project as a Way Forward for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage
      (pp. 247-262)
      Gerard Corsane and Aron Mazel

      The value of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) resources, as defined in the Introduction to this volume, has been receiving increasing recognition internationally during the last few decades. This is in large part due to the recent work that has been undertaken by UNESCO before and after the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO 2003) at the 32nd session of its General Conference in 2003. The Convention entered into force on 20 April 2006 after the terms of Article 34 within it had been met and 30 States had ratified it by 20 January of...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 263-268)
  10. Index
    (pp. 269-276)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)