P115
History as a cultural construction: UNESCO and its tradition building from a (late) modern perspective

Convenors:
Sabine Eggmann (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (SGV))
Franziska Schuerch Schneider
Location:
Tower A, Piso 3, Room 302
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

History is everywhere: UNESCO - today's advocate of 'cultural heritage' - seems to be typical in this sense. Focusing on the local and the global we may ask how peoples' local lives are shaped by global institutional practices of 'tradition making' and historical argumentation.

Long abstract:

Today's societies can't be thought about without a widespread orientation towards history and collective memory. These phenomena shape individual lives as much as collective ones and they are manifested in different forms as well as in various places. UNESCO is a good example of this kind of globally existing orientation towards history, since it thinks of itself as a special interest group for 'cultures' around the world that might be endangered in their special historical characters. 'Tradition' and 'history' are core features of UNESCO's interpreting and simultaneous fixing of those "cultures", even though the local people might think differently of their heritage and of their special ways of living. And even though space makes its very difference for these ways of living, it is rarely thought of or talked about in the concepts of UNESCO. Focusing on the local and the global we might ask how peoples' local lives are shaped by global institutional practices of 'tradition making' and historical argumentation. The point, therefore, seems to be to historize and localize this social practice of finding orientation in history and building up a collective memory or heritage. Essential for this panel are those contributions that look for historical argumentation at different levels of UNESCO's fields of practice: What status do 'history' and 'tradition' call for, and what strategic argument do they follow? And as a consequence of that: What kind of conflicts between the global and the local construction of history's meaning does UNESCO provoke?