Accepted Paper:

Back to grass-roots: performance and resistance in the heritage site  


Felicia Hughes-Freeland (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how collaboration and cooperation are being used to challenge a top-down approach to intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in a festival in Indonesia, and revisits the theoretical chacterization of ICH.

Paper long abstract:

Intangible Cultural Heritage is a contested concept. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (2004) has argued that intangible culture is 'metacultural production' which undermines underlying knowledge by transforming the role of performance makers, the fundamental conductions for cultural production and reproduction, and the speed of time. This has contributed to a lively and diverse range of critical scholarship (Smith and Akagawa 2009).

This paper engages with Kirshenblatt-Gimblett critique with reference the Five Mountains festival, which is associated with one of Indonesia's two oldest UNESCO world heritage cultural sites, the Borobudur temple compound. This is research in progress and the latest phase of longitudinal research in Indonesia that started in the 1980s. By analysing performance as emergent and collaborative, and prioritising the dynamics of socialisation and interaction in the processes of performance making, it is possible to avoid frequent top-down approaches that invoke state cultural policy or heritage site management issues. Recognising the use of 'grass-roots' by performance practitioners allows us to gain insight into heritage itself as inherently processual and creative, with cooperation and negotiation at its heart.

Panel P032
Exploring the complexity of heritage practices through cooperation