Accepted Paper:

The disappointment of ICH: which role for the anthropologist?  


Chiara Bortolotto (EHESS)

Paper short abstract:

Which is the role of anthropologists in the identification of ICH? How do they negotiate their position in participative projects? Through participant observation in inventory-making and capacity building projects I will present some of the challenges that ICH presents for anthropologists.

Paper long abstract:

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) represents the most evident shift toward an anthropologisation of heritage in Unesco policies. Anthropologists claim for the acknowledgment of their know-how emphasizing that they are experts on the items to be safeguarded as well as interpreters of the point of view of the communities. As such, they are often involved in the implementation of the Convention at the national level: preparation of nominations, national inventories, and periodic reports. Far from simply implying the application of their anthropological knowledge or ethnographic experience, the new Unesco paradigm entails a radical redefinition of their role in the heritagization process. Which is the place that global policies and local communities assign to the anthropologist in this framework? How does this new role impact on the practice of academic or public anthropology? Does ICH ultimately legitimize anthropological expertise? I will draw on my participation to French inventories of ICH and on my experience in capacity building workshops organized by Unesco in order to present some of the challenges faced by anthropologists in the actual implementation of ICH policies.

Panel P06
Intangible heritage and the challenges for the theory and practice of anthropology