home / newsletter / SIEF Newsletter Vol 20 No 2 (Autumn 2022) Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property

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Warsaw, 4–5 July 2022

Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property

The working group provides an overview of recent and future events.


The SIEF Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property was established at the 2008 Derry congress, to address the growing interest in the field of cultural heritage, its symbolic and economic power, as well as contingent political implications. Its interests and activities encompass issues of heritage policy, theory, and practice.

The working group resumed its sponsorship of biennial conferences with ‘Religion, Cultural Heritage and Social Change for Central-Eastern Europe’ held in Warsaw, 4–5 July 2022, which occurred following the SIEF Summer School in Warsaw, 26 June – 3 July. It was co-sponsored and hosted by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, with financial support provided by SIEF and the ‘Re-Enchantment of Central-Eastern Europe’ research project led by WG board member Alessandro Testa, Charles University, Prague. The conference was organized by the project team and coordinated by Agata Ładykowska. It explored issues of social change in relation to religion and cultural heritage in Central and Eastern Europe, focusing on the re-emerging public presence of religion and heritagised religion in the post-socialist era.

The diverse aspects of religion within the life worlds of former socialist countries were envisaged through the lens of several disciplines, including ethnology and folklore, anthropology and sociology of religion, historical anthropology, social history, memory studies, and art studies. Participants based their observations on in-depth case studies and research projects privileging a close view into the fascinating dynamic of religion in various social settings.

Through the selection of speakers and themes, the conference conveners created an excellent framework for conversation and debate, encouraging dialogue and exchange of ideas and perspectives. The engaging and fruitful atmosphere during discussions especially revealed the importance of the chosen topic for the fields represented by the SIEF community, and the need for an ongoing reflection on the transformation of religion and religious tangible and intangible cultural heritage within Central-European societies and cultures. The conference was lively and gathered a harmonious and friendly group of scholars from all around Europe in a very hot but welcoming city of Warsaw.

The Ethno-Didactics Conference “Educational resources for a fair valorization of intangible cultural heritage”, Iași, 19–20 May 2022, was organized by WG Board Member Ioana Baskerville at the Ethnology Department within the “A. Philippide” Institute of Romanian Philology of the Romanian Academy, Iasi Branch and the Iasi County Center for Traditional Culture. Participants from Romania, Germany, Moldova, UK, Finland, Ukraine analysed and shared good practices on how intangible cultural heritage is presented within formal and non-formal education. The debate envisaged the use in the popular culture discourse of concepts such as ‘traditional’, ‘authentic’, ‘folklore’, ‘heritage’, concepts that are often used more for their market value, and not internalized due to their content or their connection with the social reality or the intellectual history that they represent.

A webinar series, “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development” was launched on 14 October and will continue through May 2023. The series is organized by Chiara Bortolotto, the UNESCO Chair on Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development, CY Cergy Paris Université, CY Advanced Studies - CY Initiative of Excellence, UMR Héritages : Culture/s, Patrimoine/s, Création/s. The first webinar, ‘Ownership and rights: Sustainable Development ideals with inequalities of recognition and resource command” was presented by Kristin Kuutma, the past co-chair of our working group. Her presentation dealt with UNESCO’s ICH initiatives associated with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is focused particularly on the goal of reducing inequalities. She unpacked the entangled socioeconomic implications and resource command in relation to designated heritage practices. For minority groups there emerge remarkable sites of meaning that project the dismissed rights for self-determination. Kristin’s reflections, based on long-term fieldwork at ICH-related targeted meetings, analysed inequalities in politics of recognition. For details of future sessions and log-in links for this series, see the programme of sessions.

Members of our working group, and general SIEF members, are actively involved with the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity through the ICH NGO Forum, as expert advisors to state party delegations, UNESCO accredited facilitators, as well as several UNESCO Chairs. CHP members participated in the General Assembly of the Convention, held in Paris, 5–7 July. The ICH NGO Forum held a seminar on 5 July on ICH good safeguarding practices utilized to advance human security. It included presentations on ICH in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, ICH and social transformation and women’s activities in maintaining sustainable agricultural practices. The Forum’s annual publication, Heritage Alive! launched its publication on traditional musical instruments with presentations on diverse instrument traditions, and a live performance with musicians, dancers and singers from Réunion, France. Storytelling is the theme of the 2023 issue.

During the General Assembly there were also extensive discussions about proposals to exclude NGOs from non-member states from accreditation and steering committee membership. Both proposals were rejected after lengthy debate, and discussions of these proposals had the favourable effect of bringing considerable positive attention to the work that the Forum and accredited NGOs are currently carrying out.

A webinar on ICH and sustainable tourism organized by the ICH NGO Forum UNESCO will be presented on Zoom on 27 October at 14:00 Paris time (CEST). The webinar will launch a web dossier and will include scholars and other specialists who contributed case studies and other content on ICH and sustainable tourism to the web dossier. Visit the ICH NGO Forum website for further information and a Zoom link.

The 17th annual Intergovernmental Committee (IGC 17.COM) meeting of the UNESCO ICH Convention will take place in Rabat, Morocco, 28 November – 3 December, with a number of ICH NGO Forum events occurring at the same venue beginning 27 November. SIEF members can register as Observers for the IGC meeting. The schedule of ICH NGO Forum events will be posted online in due course. General information and working documents for 17.COM will be available online by 31 October.