Making the past pay?

Intangible (cultural) heritage in South Africa and Mauritius

Authored by: Rosabelle Boswell

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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In his account of global inequality and debt, anthropologist David Graeber (2011) argues that it is difficult to convincingly relay the depth and extent of damage caused by dispossession and inequality. The conversation to be had with those who ‘have’ is often one-sided. While current ‘rules’ of exchange stipulate that what is taken must be returned with interest, proponents of neoliberalism are either unwilling to deliver or unconscious of what equal opportunity and meaningful or just recompense means. For those dispossessed, there appears to be no payment in sight for ‘services rendered’. Recently, it has been suggested that the role of heritage management is to showcase the creativity of humankind (see UNESCO, 2003, 2005). Increasingly, however, scholars are focusing on the role of heritage in identity reconstruction and the assertion of human dignity. Heritage, they argue, enables a reconnection with the past and the public recognition of Indigenous knowledge and identities, as well as the narratives of other historically marginalized communities and groups (Lowenthal, 1998; Bristol, 2010; Charlesworth, 2010; Nagata, 2010; Peterson, Gavua and Rassool, 2015). Such scholars make reference to the fact that ICH is entangled or implicated in larger questions around equality, freedom and justice. They also offer examples to support their arguments (see also Silverman and Ruggles, 2007).

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