Development of UNESCO’s Convention

Creating a new heritage protection paradigm?

Authored by: Janet Blake

The Routledge Companion to Intangible Cultural Heritage

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138860551
eBook ISBN: 9781315716404
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506898


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It is possible to assert that the 2003 Convention has created a ‘new paradigm’ in heritage protection. In many ways this is true in terms of policy- and law-making at the international level and, through a trickle-down effect, on national approaches towards heritage and heritage communities. At the same time, it should be recognized that safeguarding ICH 1 has, in reality, been an important issue for the large majority of countries and people around the globe long before the 2003 Convention was adopted. 2 The ‘problem’ of ICH that the international community sought to address through UNESCO in the late 1990s, leading to the adoption of the 2003 Convention, was, in large part, a lack of formal international recognition having hitherto been shown to this reality. Up until that moment, the cultural heritage protection paradigm was one that prioritized monumental ‘European’ cultural forms over local and Indigenous ones and that, when it addressed ‘traditional culture’, did so from a position that favored the interests of the research community over those of culture bearers (Blake, 2001).

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