Accepted Paper:

The impertinent guest. The ethnographer's criticism as cooperative attitude.  


Fabio Mugnaini (Università di Siena)

Paper short abstract:

The unpredicted side effects of long tested scholarship and political institutions under the flag of UNESCO' ICH program, urge scholars to reaffirm the commitment to their implicit critical role, as the only way to be loyal to the IC heirs and communities and to be creditable partner to UNESCO.

Paper long abstract:

The UNESCO' ICH worldwide success, built on the strict cooperation between policy makers and experts, produced many side effects that started to call some scholars' critical attention, either at the scale of the local communities (Dylan Foster and Gilman, 2015, for instance) and to the whole UNESCO' procedural set (Hafstein 2018). Drawing on those contributions and on some examples from Italy, this proposal aims to focus on some open issues. First of all, the hardened competition among disciplinary authorities, from a wide array of academic fields, for conquering a legitimate role in ICH procedures. Secondly the interference of stakeholders that often start the process for UNESCO recognition, looking for political ends, cherishing, flattering and menacing, at the same time the academic autonomy, regardless the priorities of the involved tradition bearers' communities or groups that the promoter should represent and the expert should know, respect and defend.

Third, owing to the last-word-power that States have been awarded by ICH convention, such a distortion in the relationship between political and academic field, may be found also at the level of UNESCO's praxis. The ethnographic scrutiny of the rich open archives of its sessions, makes evident how not rarely the procedural hallmarks and principles are bypassed or reinterpreted, when not plainly ignored. Therefore scholars' critical gaze, theoretically and ethically backed and politically aware or, at least, clear, is than the only real positive support that they /we may give, either if involved in the bottom-up process, or when accredited to the top level.

Panel Heri02
UNESCO and entanglements of intangible cultural heritage [SIEF Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property] [R]