home / newsletter / SIEF Newsletter Vol 21 No 1 (Spring 2023) Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property

Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property

Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property

Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property

The WG presents its program in Brno and talks about various other (UNESCO) activities they are involved in.



Steering committee of the ICH NGO Forum in Rabat, Robert Baron representing SIEF.

Steering committee of the ICH NGO Forum in Rabat, Robert Baron representing SIEF.


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. Any SIEF member is welcome to join our working group. To join, send an email to carley.williams1(at)abdn.ac.uk and rbtbaron(at)gmail.com, and make sure to register for the Working Group mailing list online.

The Cultural Heritage and Property (CHP) Working Group is eagerly looking forward to coming together again in Brno, four long years after the last in-person SIEF Congress. Our business meeting will take place on Thursday, 8 June, 18:45 - 20:00. The meeting will also be on Zoom for the benefit of those who are unable to attend the Congress. A Zoom link will be sent to CHP members in late May, and a recording will be provided after the Congress. To receive the Zoom link, please ensure you are subscribed with up-to-date contact details on our WG mailing list.

The working group's sponsored session in Brno, is a Roundtable, New Horizons for SIEF Engagement with UNESCO-ICH, presented as a reflection of the 20th anniversary of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Roundtable participants engage with UNESCO's ICH program in a variety of ways, serving as experts in government delegations, as active members of the ICH NGO Forum, as advisors to the ICH Secretariat, and as community stakeholders participating in ICH safeguarding, while also maintaining critical perspectives as heritage scholars. The Roundtable will explore how ethnologists and folklorists can play a more prominent role in policy making at both national and international levels, informed by scholarship in our disciplines and shaped by partnerships with community-based practitioners and culture bearers. Speakers at the Roundtable and audience members will consider how SIEF can expand our role as a forum for discussing scholarship, policy, and practice, disseminate resources for policy making, and develop ICH curricula for primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Members of our Working Group and SIEF's Board have initiated discussions with officers in the UNESCO ICH Secretariat to consider how SIEF can contribute research, share the expertise of our members, advise on ICH curricula, and join in the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the UNESCO ICH Convention. An invitation has been extended for an officer of the UNESCO ICH Secretariat to participate in the Brno roundtable.

Heritage panels will have a robust presence at this year's SIEF Congress. The programme will include 17 other sessions on heritage associated with a total of 9 different streams in addition to the SIEF and UNESCO Roundtable.

Many SIEF members participated in the Seventeenth annual Intergovernmental Committee (17.COM) Meeting of the UNESCO ICH Convention, held 27 November - 3 December in Rabat, Morocco. Our members serve as expert members of states party delegations, representatives of ICH accredited NGOs, and on the Executive Board of the ICH NGO Forum. During this meeting, 4 items were selected for the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices, 39 nominations were inscribed to the Representative List, and 4 elements were added to the list in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. In an historic act, the Committee removed the 'Ducasse of Ath' from the element 'Processional giants and dragons in Belgium and France' on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, deeming the existence of a chained black character called the 'Sauvage' of the procession in the town of Ath (Belgium) racist and discriminatory, in contradiction with the founding principles of UNESCO and the requirement of mutual respect under Article 2 of the Convention.

With the conclusion of the Open-ended intergovernmental working group in the framework of the global reflection on the listing mechanisms, a new initiative to reflect on the broader implementation of Article 18 of the Convention was announced at the Rabat meeting. The group of experts will meet with an aim to provide policy and programmatic recommendations on good safeguarding practices, improve the access to and increase the visibility of the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices, work towards the creation of an 'observatory' for sharing good safeguarding practices, and reflect on any other issues identified relating to Article 18.

SIEF members will be actively involved in planning and implementing this initiative as representatives of their government delegations, as UNESCO chairs, and through the ICH NGO Forum. The ICH NGO Forum session held alongside 17.COM included a symposium on intangible cultural heritage, climate change and the environment which highlighted a number of case studies from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. The recording of the symposium can be accessed here, and the comments from the floor can be found here. Documents and recordings of the 17.COM meeting in Rabat can also be found online.

As ever, our working group members are carrying out research projects, participating in many conferences, and prolifically producing publications. We are mentioning just a few here, and we ask CHP members to let us know of others for the poster at the Brno Congress and future newsletters.

The Slovene journal Traditiones devoted issue 1 of volume 50 (2021), their 50th anniversary issue, to "Heritages: Perspectives and Practices". It included reflections on where we stand with heritage today, with an overview of research to date (Alessandro Testa), a view forward (Laurent Sebastien Fournier, Regina Bendix), and articles on concrete heritage practices in various European contexts by a number of other contributors.

Regina Bendix participated along with a number of emerging scholars in a 2021 conference organized by the Allegra Lab, "Heritage Under Control", which included Proceedings published in 2022. It addressed questions which included:

Under what circumstances does waste become heritage, and heritage becomes waste? How does the intimate relationship between spirits and energies operate in relation to the abstract public that heritage presupposes? Can spirits, rituals, energies be imagined as heritage?

Alf Arvidsson and his colleagues in Umeå recently finished their "Oral storytelling as ICH and social force" project. A short report is included in Alf’s "Narrativity as Concept and Topic in Contemporary Swedish Ethnology", Jahrbuch für Europäische Ethnologie 2022 (to be published in May 2023). An anthology of the project by Alf Arvidsson & Katarzyna Wolanik Boström has also been published.

Other recent publications include Giacomo Caruso's article, "Fixity and Derivation in Jianzhan Pottery Making: Research Perspectives for a Historical Anthropology of Techniques" in the 2023 Bochum Yearbook of East Asian Studies. And, Anders Gustavsson's 2021 book on alcohol in historical perspective is now available free online.

We look forward to seeing new and returning CHP WG members in person and online in Brno.
Robert Baron and Carley Williams