Accepted Paper:

Rethinking cultural brokerage  

Author:

Robert Baron (Goucher College)

Paper short abstract:

Culture brokerage studies emphasize the agency of brokers acting for communities to facilitate access to resources and cultural representation. It should instead be seen as transactional, with interplay of personal and professional as well as socially and culturally ameliorative interests for all involved.

Paper long abstract:

Culture brokerage studies relating to heritage emphasize the agency of the broker acting for and on behalf of a community to facilitate access to resources and cultural representation. I contend that cultural brokerage should instead be seen as transactional, with interplay of personal and professional as well as socially and culturally ameliorative interests for all actors involved. Heritage interventions by cultural brokers are carried out for mutual benefit as well as self-interest. They contain relationships of authority which may be symmetrical, complementary, asymmetrical as well as metacomplementary at different times. These relationships contain mutuality, tensions, contradictions and ambiguities.

Rethinking cultural brokerage is particularly timely for heritage theory and practice as new approaches for operationalizing the UNESCO ICH participation mandate are being actively conceived and implemented. This paper will draw from studies of cultural brokerage in folklife, applied anthropology, international development and health care, identifying interests and authority relationships in multiple kinds of mediations. I will apply concepts of transactional interaction and of interest from transactional psychoanalysis and the psychology of interest.

I contend that cultural brokers should be continually reflexive about authority relationships and the need to enable the agency of those they assist, with the ongoing objective of enabling cultural self-determination and equipping communities to address their own needs after the culture broker leaves. Dialogism and reciprocity should be ongoing, while acknowledging the multiple interest of all involved.

Panel Heri03
Imperatives of participation in the heritage regime: statecraft, crisis, and creative alternatives (Cultural Heritage and Property Working Group)