‘Our Culture is dying’: Safeguarding versus representation in the implementation of the UNESCO ICH Convention

Gilman, Lisa (2022) ‘Our Culture is dying’: Safeguarding versus representation in the implementation of the UNESCO ICH Convention. The International Journal of Intangible Heritage, 17. pp. 40-52. ISSN 1975-3586

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The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) is grounded in a belief that there is some benefit ‘to humanity’ for communities to continue to practise, or ‘safeguard’, their valued cultural forms. The implementation of the Convention often requires selecting ‘representative’ elements to display to outside audiences, sometimes for financial gain. Missing from both the Convention’s discourse and many implementation plans is the recognition that what a community might most hope to safeguard may differ from what they would choose to share with others as culturally representative of them. Using examples from Malawi, I argue that the Convention’s combined goals of representation and safeguarding may be too ambitious. As it stands, the Convention has been less effective as a tool for cultural conservation than it has been for creating opportunities for cultural groups to display their cultural phenomena to outside audiences, whether for identity, pride, diversity or moneymaking. Being explicit that the implementation is often about representing rather than safeguarding could create more clarity and produce more deliberate, effective and ethical outcomes.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: intangible cultural heritage, cultural sustainability, economic development, folklore, dance, Malawi
Subjects: B Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) > 02 Concept and definition
B Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) > 04 Performing arts
B Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) > 10 Safeguarding of ICH
B Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) > 12 Local communities
J Economic aspects > 01 Generalities
J Economic aspects > 03 Economic values of heritage
Depositing User: Mr Jose García Vicente
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2022 21:09
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2022 21:09
URI: http://culturainmaterial.es/id/eprint/108

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