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Pre-Symposium Meeting on “Glocal Perspectives on ICH: Local Communities, Researchers, States and UNESCO”

The Centre for Glocal Studies at Seijo University (CGS) held the Pre-Symposium Meeting on Glocal Perspectives on Intangible Cultural Heritage: Local Communities, Researchers, States and UNESCO on 18 and 19 February 2017. This meeting was a preview to the forthcoming symposium on the same theme to be held for the Asia-Pacific region from 7 to 9 July 2017 to be co-organized by the International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCI) and CGS. The theme of the symposium was proposed in reply to the words of Lourdes Arizpe, Mexican anthropologist and former Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO from 1994 to 1998: “In recent years anthropology has developed its own critical perspective on ICH, with little or no dialogue with the UNESCO program of the 2003 Convention… The renewal of this dialogue between independent researchers in anthropology and other related sciences and the policy-making bodies of the 2003 Convention are now a very urgent matter.”

Under this overarching topic, the following four sub-themes were discussed:

  1. How do local communities, researchers, and states (including local and government officials) collaborate to implement the UNESCO ICH Convention including inventory making, safeguarding, nomination, and inscription?
  2. What has been the Convention’s transformative effect, and how have communities assessed its effects?
  3. What is the role of researchers as cultural brokers in assessing the effect of the Convention implementation?
  4. What are the possible feedback mechanisms for local communities to communicate to UNESCO the effects of the Convention?

At this meeting, five academics presented their insight.

Hanhee Hahm (Chonbuk University)
demonstrated how the Republic of Korea had tackled the contrast between the community-centered approach of the UNESCO Convention and the government-centered approach for safeguarding ICH that the country had in place for decades, by passing a new law in 2015. She illustrated this process with a case study on tea-making, the first ICH element inscribed under the new law.
Chao Gejin (China Folklore Society)
presented a case study on the nomination for the “Twenty-four solar terms,” inscribed on the Representative List in 2016. He showed how representatives of the communities, research institutions, NGOs, and the governments shared responsibilities and collaborated by way of a well-established cooperative mechanism.
Michael Dylan Foster (University of California, Davis)
discussed the perceived disconnect between the global and the local in understanding ICH through his case study on “Koshikijima no Toshidon,” which was inscribed on the Representative List in 2009 (Japan). He suggested ways in which the concerned stakeholders might work to bridge the disconnected “metacultural” (culture made up of other cultures) and “exocultural” (from within the culture) perspectives.
Antonio Arantes
noted that the Convention had successfully brought about “anthropological turn” and made a breakthrough in heritage policies by placing people at the forefront of heritage thinking and practice and by bringing forth social value. He concluded that the effectiveness of the Convention was grounded on a challenging conceptual tension between the intrinsic universalism and the embedded particularism of the ICH communities.
Marc Jacobs (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
examined eight ethical principles for safeguarding the iCH and identified the submerged tension between ‘relative autonomy’ and ‘interventions’ in these principles. Referring to the new chapter of the operational directives “Chapter VI—Safeguarding ICH and sustainable development at the national level,” he shed light on one of the most challenging paragraphs, 172 (d), relating to cooperation among diverse stakeholders, including cultural brokers for integrating ICH safeguarding into development plans, policies, and programs.

The July Symposium for the Asia-Pacific Region will certainly benefit from the insights generated at the pre-symposium meeting, renewing dialogue between and among representatives of local communities, researchers, States Parties, and UNESCO.

Noriko Aikawa-Faure, Former Director, Intangible Cultural Heritage Unit, UNESCO

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