Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Wars and disasters as matters of "anthropology of heritage"  


Taku Iida (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan)

Paper short abstract:

Cultural heritage cannot be inherited without people's involvement in repairing objects or repeating performances. Such people's practices give a collective and consistent character to the heritage, which is menaced by extreme moments of wars and disasters.

Paper long abstract:

This paper answers two questions: How can anthropology problematize cultural heritage? And why does this new field of "anthropology of heritage" focus on wars and disasters? I answer them based on my experience or the concerned research project.

Cultural heritage is human products that are/should be inherited through generations. But inheritance in a rigid sense is impossible because materials comprising the heritage deteriorate sooner or later. The situation is more difficult in the case of intangible heritage, because no performance cannot be given in the same conditions as precedent ones. Cultural heritage therefore inevitably undergoes transformation through reparation and repetition. So there are no objective criteria to judge whether the heritage is safeguarded properly; but success or failure is estimated totally by the people who share the value of the heritage and are involved in the inheritance. Cultural heritage cannot exist without people.

Such people's contribution to the inheritance has been undermined in the heritage studies where architectures and artifacts are the major objects of analysis. Cultural anthropology, on the other hand, problematizes human practices in general, including both inter-human and human/non-human interactions. Moreover, this discipline has struggled to conceptualize culture as a collective and consistent phenomenon. Anthropology of heritage doesn't begin with conceptualization of culture but describe people's behavior, and hereby try to make theories of collectiveness and consistency.

Wars and disasters are the most extreme moments where people try to recover collectiveness and consistency. This is why anthropology of heritage problematizes them.

Panel P083
Heritage bridges people: towards recovery from wars and disasters (CLOSED - 6) (NME panel)