Paper long abstract:
My ongoing multi-sited fieldwork on the World Heritage system and other UNESCO heritage conventions has called one assumption in particular into question, namely that "UNESCO" does or says this thing or the other, contrary to much anthropological writing where it is unproblematically assumed to do or say things. I will contrast the perceptible policy shifts in the World Heritage convention - UNESCO's single most visible activity - with the often unpredictable, haphazard, and only mildly consistent individual decisions the World Heritage Committee and its auxiliary institutions take. I will then try to explain this contrast with the complex architecture of the World Heritage system and the unwritten rules UNESCO works by, showing that a number of features chosen rather innocuously and early on have unanticipated effects that now, in a situation where World Heritage has outgrown even the most opimistic expectations, prove almost irreversible.
The anthropology of international organizations