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ICH on the ground: the fine art of rules and measures I 
Carley Williams (University of Aberdeen)
Tóta Árnadóttir (University of the Faroe Islands)
Fabio Mugnaini (Università di Siena)
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Michael Foster (University of California, Davis)
Tuesday 22 June, 14:00-15:45 (UTC+3)

Short Abstract:

This panel will explore professional experiences with official safeguarding efforts - dilemmas scholars face when engaging with the 2003 UNESCO Convention on ICH, and how they attempt to (re)solve them? Can "rules and measures" be symbiotic with healthy ICH, and if not, then what is the alternative?

Long Abstract

The word "rule" refers to the verb meaning "enforcing power" and the simple instrument ensuring that straight lines are drawn and accurate measurements are made. As countries attempt to implement the UNESCO 2003 Convention on ICH, using its lists as regulated ways to "take the measure of" their respective cultural heritage, scholars may find themselves being professionally engaged to go against basic assumptions of our field. These include essential understandings of "culture in peril", often based on the perceived need to assess and describe ICH in definitive ways, to ensure that safeguarding initiatives are carried out "in the right way".

Some scholars reject involvement in processes of regulation and measures of standardization, and find themselves watching a growing "heritage enterprise" from the outside; others work within the system, bringing a critical academic perspective, contributing alternative ways of engaging with ICH. As governments become more involved in safeguarding, professional opportunities increase for scholars within our fields; many of us already experience the dual role of "official expert defining rules" and "critical observer opposing rules". How do we navigate these roles in diverse contexts, whilst attempting to interpret the ethnological oxymoron "good safeguarding practices"? Inspired by discussions during the 2020 SIEF Summer School, this panel will bring forward a variety of case studies and offer insight into the debates around measuring and ruling over living culture.

This Panel proposal is sponsored by the SIEF Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property in conjunction with the Roundtable proposal 'ICH and Higher Education'.

Accepted papers: