W039
Selling tradition by the pound: intangibile cultural heritage and the marketing of localities

Convenors:
Cristina Grasseni (Utrecht University)
Letizia Bindi (Università degli Studi del Molise)
Discussant:
James Carrier
Location:
Arts Classhall D
Start time:
26 August, 2010 at 11:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

The notion of immaterial patrimony needs a critical review. Labelling landscapes, foodstuffs and traditions as 'heritage' involves commercial and political strategies as well as cultural. Ethnographic evidence and critical reflection are needed to review the commodification of territories.

Long abstract:

The notion of "immaterial patrimony" needs a critical review. The "re-evaluation" of landscapes, foodstuffs and traditions as "heritage" combine cultural, commercial and political strategies. Both developing areas and regions struggling with industrial stagnation have invested on tourism, typical products and all things "traditional". Localities express entrepreneurship - whether under institutional pressure by local élites, or by democratic participation. Economic considerations weigh heavily on the dissemination of cultural events or the choice of conservation projects, whilst re-invented ceremonial practices and local foods are interpreted as icons of local identity. In times of crisis, the relationship between local communities, cultural activisms and institutional promotion can be read imaginatively, especially within a comparative view that goes beyond parochial dynamics. But the ambivalent relationship between "folklore and profit" was an object of anthropological critique since the Seventies. Today, new ethnographic evidence and critical reflection are needed to assess the commodification of cultures and territories.