Accepted Paper:

When craft performs heritage: Contested practice in post-earthquake heritage reconstruction in Nepal  
Stefanie Lotter (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

Nothing could have prepared all Nepali heritage sites for the effects of a 7.8 earthquake. As in previous earthquakes, many structures collapsed to a pile of rubble. Today craftsmen, communities, structural engineers and architects grasp intangible heritage to negotiate authenticity and modernity.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses craft practice in the aftermath of two earthquakes that devastated Nepal in 2015, killing 9000 people, destroying over 500 000 houses and shattering many of Nepal's ancient heritage sites. 'When craft performs heritage' explores how the reconstruction of identity-defining heritage sites is negotiated by agents such as craftspeople, community groups, structural engineers, architects and policy makers.

Communities, even nations claim ownership of heritage to distinguish themselves. When craft is requested to perform heritage, agents become contested carriers of identity. When identity is at risk, craftspeople cannot be perceived as creative independent agents but must adhere - for the survival of tradition - to cultural continuity. However, while the heritage discourse produces identity through continuity, the crafts discourse emphasizes continuity through change.

It seems therefore inconclusive to lay the authenticity of a tradition and even more, the heritage of a nation into the hands of craftspeople who per se improvise, innovate, if not play. To resolve the dilemma creativity has been limited through a rigid system of knowledge transfer and the regulation of eligibility to train.

After the earthquakes in Nepal, craftspeople are now required to rebuild ancient complex architectural structures. Adding to the pressure of reconstructing iconic national monuments - much larger than anything build traditionally during their lifetime - craftspeople are also required to guarantee public safety by building earthquake resistant monuments.

With the heavy burden of verifying authenticity through inherited practice a fine line of innovation has to be drawn to guarantee unverifiable safety.

Panel P068
The Future of Craft: Apprenticeship, Transmission and Heritage