Valorization and Commoditization of Heritage: A Comparative Study of Choice and Modalities on the State Level

Project Director: Prof. Dr. Regina Bendix (Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology)
Researcher: Aditya Eggert, M.A., Arnika Peselmann M.A.

Project Abstract

Parallel to the unfolding of UNESCO’s global heritage initiative, mechanisms for bringing about and maintaining heritage have been created or reshaped on the level of (nation) states. The first UNESCO heritage convention was adopted in 1972; for it to be implemented, member states first had to ratify it. Only states choosing to ratify this and any of the subsequent types of UNESCO heritage – monuments, cultural landscapes, memory, intangible cultural heritage – may propose new items for nomination to the various heritage lists. Political systems have an enormous impact on the propertization of cultural heritage. This influences how value is generated from nominated and certified cultural elements. The project queries this state-level framing in terms of how value is bestowed on cultural sites and practices both in economic and identity terms. Two case studies as well as a comparative corpus of data generated with an initial international conference will be coupled with the latest literatures on heritage in order to produce a first, systematic view on the differential impact of the UNESCO conventions in different political systems. We will focus on decision making bodies, bureaucratic processes and the growth of new groups of actors achieving legitimacy on local, national and international levels. We will document processes of selection and implementation of heritage as steered by state mechanisms as well the emergence of associated new notions of ownership and property. The project is framed by questions genuine to the entire research group, in this case an interest in the heritage regimes role in global governance processes in the realm of cultural property.

Project Presentations and Publications
  • Arnika Peselmann, MA, Göttingen: Das Erzgebirge als “Cultural Landscape? Konstituierungs- und Inwertsetzungsprozesse eines geplanten UNESCO-Weltkulturebe”, Tagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, Tübingen, 21.-24.09.2011
  • Aditya Eggert, MA, Göttingen: “Immaterielles Kulturerbe in Kambodscha: Kultur als umstrittene Ressource”, Tagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde, Wien, 14.-17.09.2011