Accepted Paper:

The Roof of the World Festival: Intangible Cultural Heritages and Intercultural Exchanges  


Mehrenegar Rostami (University of California, Los Angeles)

Paper long abstract:

The Roof of the World Festival (Bam-e Donya) is a small-scale, locally-organized international music festival that is held annually in Khorugh, the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in southern Tajikistan. Founded in 2008 by the Amesha Spenta organization, the festival’s primary aim is to safeguard and represent Pamiri customs and values. Over the years, the festival has been expanded to bring both regional and international artists, musicians, and dancers together. The festival’s mother organization is spearheaded by Samandar Pulatov, a locally known musician whose aspiration in initiating this festival surpasses the mere preservation of his cultural heritages. By raising awareness of the need to promote disappearing cultural traditions like Pamiri linguistic and traditional musical practices, Pulatov aspires not only to reinvigorate these traditions but also to gain global recognition. His aspirations and the festival’s mandates are clearly manifested in the titles of his organization and the festival. The founding organization’s name, Amesha Spenta, which means “beneficent immortal” in the Avestan language, is indicative of the organization’s commitment to preserve Pamiri cultural heritages for eternity. The festival’s title also refers allegorically to the mountainous regions of Badakhshan, which once brought the world together through the ancient routs of the Silk Road. My paper will demonstrate how Pulatov cultivates the important tenets of “intercultural hospitality” by fostering an intercultural environment, advancing intercultural dialogue, and promoting diversity within the context of the festival. These tenets underlie models of productive communication by embracing the ethical values of caring and trust and the ideals of connectivity and exchange in order to surmount cultural and religious antagonism. In the context of the Roof of the World Festival, intercultural hospitality promotes conditions for creative exchanges at the same time that it fosters the recognition of Pamiri cultural practices in opposition to the Tajik state’s oppressive policies toward minority groups of Badakhshan. Drawing upon ethnographic data collected during the 2017 Roof of the World festival, I will explain how the involvement of European NGOs as primary sponsors of the festival has affected the representation of traditional musical performances. Since the festival is entirely contingent upon the philanthropic support of these NGOs, its annual production requires meeting the demands of the patrons, which includes selling out tickets and attracting large numbers of audience members. This, I will argue, has led to significant changes in traditional musical practices.

Panel ANT-08
Values and Heritage