Protecting ‘cultural heritage’ in the face of increasing globalization.

I heard a mention on the news a couple of weeks ago about the 2022 List of Intangible Cultural Heritage nominations. I was curious about what Intangible Cultural Heritage was.  I knew what cultural appropriation was, but not Intangible Cultural Heritage.  Here is the definition of Cultural Appropriation from MasterClass:  “Cultural Appropriation occurs when a dominant cultural group adopts elements of another minority group’s heritage or cultural makeup.”  An example would be when people adopt other cultures’ traditional style of dress, like wearing Native American headdresses when they aren’t Native American.

Intangible Culture Heritage (ICH) is intellectual cultural property like customs, beliefs, traditions, language, food and more that is considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage.  In 2003 the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was drafted to protect cultural diversity in the world. ICH is not any physical structure or object.

This is a fascinating interactive map where you can navigate through thematic interconnectedness among all the elements. It’s amazing.

According to Wikipedia “the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) – or living heritage – is the mainspring of humanity’s cultural diversity and its maintenance a guarantee for continuing creativity.” ICH includes knowledge and skills that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Many people might share similar expressions of ICH which give a sense of identity, community, and inclusiveness.

While much of ICH is traditional and inherited from the past, equally important are the contemporary rural and urban practices.  In the words of UNESCO:

“While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.”

The Lists:

The Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage are made by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.  The Committee meets annually to evaluate nominations proposed by States Parties to the 2003 Convention and decide whether or not to include those cultural practices and expressions of ICH on the Convention’s Lists.

It is the Lists that introduced me to ICH.  I heard a news clip about this year’s List and that it included the French Baguette, technically nominated as “Artisinal know-how and culture of baguette bread”. 

Another nominee is Spain’s Manual Bell Ringing.  There are a total of 48 nominees for 2022’s list.  The Lists make for very interesting reading.  You can search the Lists by year, country, or region.