Conceptual circulation of intangible cultural heritage in national policies and laws 
Anita Vaivade (Latvian Academy of Culture)
Christian Georges Dominique Hottin (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication)
Ülikooli 16, 102
Start time:
2 July, 2013 at 16:45 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

The panel invites to reconsider the conceptual circulation of "intangible cultural heritage" in national policies and laws, and to examine in what ways the existing heritage concepts, policies and laws, are reshaped and questioned by novel political and legal choices on intangible cultural heritage.

Long Abstract

The concept of intangible cultural heritage has been actively circulating worldwide for almost a decade since the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is introduced in national and local policies and has become a key for new legislative initiatives, and these processes are still actively undergoing. The panel envisages to question the close and lively interconnection between the political and legal choices made and their cultural contexts, including the existing heritage concepts, policies and laws. In other words, what cultural explanations we might give for policy-making and legislative differences we observe within the domain of intangible cultural heritage, and how to valorize the existence of these differences as being culturally significant?

Even though global cultural policies conceptually overtake national and local efforts, cultural particularities and local traditions of conceptualizing cultural heritage remain significant and decisive in the way how national heritage policies and laws are being developed. In this perspective, the conceptually highlighted dichotomy of tangible and intangible cultural heritage is arousing novel policy and legal solutions. How states where cultural heritage policies are dominantly oriented towards the protection and conservation of tangible cultural heritage, are assimilating the new concept? The worldwide conceptual unification in the domain of cultural heritage causes reconsideration of existing perceptions and challenging former traditions of thinking and policy-making. Does this lead towards universal language or towards losing culturally shaped differences of conceptualizing?

Accepted papers:


Vytautas Tumenas (Lithuanian Institute of History)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses the adaptation of contemporary concept of intangible heritage in Lithuanian cultural policy and legislation, the specific problems of its registration and protection. Also the problems of international standardization and heritage science cooperation with ethnology are discussed.

Paper long abstract:

The paper deals with the problem of recognition and indigenization of the globally spreading concept of intangible heritage. The contemporary processes of globalization are leading to glocalisation in which, as Tim O'Riordan hopes, balance between the local and global will be found. The Lithuanian case shows the example of active attempts of particular enthusiasts of intellectuals, economists, businessmen, law makers and politicians to adopt on national levels the idea of intangible heritage and reinforce the life of traditional culture.

This presentation aims to show the ways of the adaptation of universal concept of intangible heritage in Lithuanian national cultural policy and legislation: a) the forms of recognition and legislation by authorities of this kind of heritage; b) "discovering" of new objects for a protectable heritage; c) searching for rational ways of intangible heritage protection, registration and living tradition reinforcing in the cultural policy; d) an interconnection between the intangible heritage protection and the national science and education policies.

The indigenization of intangible heritage concept at national level is mostly realized by the laws of "The Protection of Ethnic Culture" and "The National Heritage Product". Hard political discussions about the tangible and intangible heritage protection policy differences or similarities have started. The registration of intangible heritage according to UNESCO guidelines and National Heritage Product law now is in process. But the lack of international standards for intangible heritage protection and seclusion of heritage science from the complex cooperation with ethnology and folkloristics still is a big challenge for successful process.


Sven Missling (University of Goettingen)

Paper short abstract:

The paper deals with the States’ obligations in implementing the ICH-Convention into domestic heritage laws, carving out that it enlarges the State’s sovereign rights on cultural practices. It also discusses the legal requirements for implementation of an ICH-regime in a federal State system.

Paper long abstract:

The paper analyses the States' obligations in implementing the ÌCH-Convention into domestic heritage legislation from an international law perspective. Surprisingly, this shows that although the ICH-Convention has to be estimated as a milestone in international cultural law, its provisions do not only leave a large field of discretion to the States in shaping their own domestic cultural policies and the related legal framework but also give them more influence on immaterial cultural practices than before.

The paper shows that despite the fact that any nomination of an ICH heritage implies the danger of freezing a cultural practice, another side-effect of the Convention is that States' sovereign rights are enlarged to a part of cultural life by international law that traditionally had not been under States' full sovereignty.

The paper will therefore plead for a specific attentiveness and restraint of the national legislators in implementing the Convention's provisions into their domestic cultural policies and cultural heritage legislations. It will show the importance of a legal framing of the UNESCO ICH regime by other legal provisions.

Second, the paper focusses on the implementation of the ICH-Convention in Germany:

After just having handed over the instrument of ratification to UNESCO in April 2013, Germany will start the implementation process. Cultural sovereignty in Germany is located on the "Länder"-level, which means that only the federal States are can meet the regulations for the safeguarding of ICH. The paper discusses specific problems of an adequate implementation under the German federal system.


Agustí Andreu (Universitat Rovira i Virgili)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes how the laws of the Spanish state (1) and of the autonomous regions of the Spanish state (17) regarding cultural heritage institutionalize the ethnological and intangible heritage and also analyses the different forms of protection provided by the law.

Paper long abstract:

The analysis of the law of cultural heritage in Spain indicates that, despite the current use of diverse terms (ethnological/ethnographical/anthropological), the characteristics that the different legislators attribute to ethnological heritage revolve around three basic axes: a) the relation of ethnological heritage to popular and traditional culture, b) its connection to a given territory and identity, and c) the association between ethnological heritage and intangible heritage.

The paper also studies the Basque law on Cultural Heritage (1990), which refers to "intangible ethnographic assets" and was thus the first to introduce the concept of intangible heritage to legislation regarding the cultural heritage of the Spanish state. In Spanish law, the notion of intangible heritage has, in addition to its association with ethnological heritage, the following characteristics:

1) The law aims to guarantee the transfer of heritage from a state of intangibility to one of tangibility to ensure that this type of heritage is preserved and transmitted over time.

2) The law aims to ensure that policies concerning heritage include the concept of intangible heritage, and it creates certain specific categories of protection, generally by adapting the names of existing categories that refer to the tangible heritage. Examples of such new categories are the terms Intangible Assets of Cultural Interest (Navarra) and Intangible Asset of Local Importance (Valencia).


Christian Georges Dominique Hottin (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication)

Paper short abstract:

L'intervention porte sur la mise en œuvre de la convention de l'UNESCO pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel en France, et plus particulièrement les difficultés culturelles de l'administration du patrimoine de ce pays à prendre en compte ce nouveau paradigme patrimonial.

Paper long abstract:

La protection du patrimoine repose en France sur une base juridique incontestable, le Code du Patrimoine, qui est le résultat de l'assemblage, au début des années 2000, des différentes législations propres à chacun des grand domaine patrimoniaux : musées, archives, monuments historiques, archéologie. Aucune place n'est actuellement faite à la notion de patrimoine culturel immatériel dans ce code, bien que la France ait adhéré en 2006 à la convention de l'UNESCO pour la sauvegarde du PCI.

Un attachement marqué au patrimoine monumental ne suffit pas à rendre compte de ce décalage entre une tradition administrative nationale et un nouvel ordre patrimonial qui s'esquisse au plan international. En effet, la France dispose, depuis le début des années 1980, d'une politique en faveur du patrimoine ethnologique, concept qui recouvre un domaine assez proche de celui de PCI. Mais cette politique est demeurée presque exclusivement tournée vers la recherche scientifique, et non vers la sauvegarde effective. Ce ne sont pas tant les objets à patrimonialiser qui posent problème, mais plutôt la manière de les traiter.

On tentera donc d'expliquer ici quels sont les principes qui sous tendent la politique du patrimoine en France et de montrer en quoi ces normes implicites sont profondément remises en cause par le mode de patrimonialisation prôné par l'UNESCO pour la sauvegarde du PCI.