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Cultural Heritage in Transit

Intangible Rights as Human Rights

Edited by Deborah Kapchan

Publication Year: 2014

Are human rights universal? The immediate response is "yes, of course." However, that simple affirmation assumes agreement about definitions of the "human" as well as what a human is entitled to under law, bringing us quickly to concepts such as freedom, property, and the inalienability of both. The assumption that we all mean the same things by these terms carries much political import, especially given that different communities (national, ethnic, religious, gendered) enact some of the most basic categories of human experience (self, home, freedom, sovereignty) differently. But whereas legal definitions often seek to eliminate ambiguity in order to define and protect the rights of humanity, ambiguity is in fact inherently human, especially in performances of heritage where the rights to sense, to imagine, and to claim cultural identities that resist circumscription are at play.

Cultural Heritage in Transit examines the intangibilities of human rights in the realm of heritage production, focusing not only on the ephemeral culture of those who perform it but also on the ambiguities present in the idea of cultural property in general—who claims it? who may use it? who should not but does? In this volume, folklorists, ethnologists, and anthropologists analyze the practice and performance of culture in particular contexts—including Roma wedding music, Trinidadian wining, Moroccan verbal art, and Neopagan rituals—in order to draw apart the social, political, and aesthetic materialities of heritage production, including inequities and hierarchies that did not exist before. The authors collectively craft theoretical frameworks to make sense of the ways the rights of nations interact with the rights of individuals and communities when the public value of artistic creations is constituted through international law.

Contributors: Valdimar Tr. Hafstein, Deborah Kapchan, Barbro Klein, Sabina Magliocco, Dorothy Noyes, Philip W. Scher, Carol Silverman.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction. Intangible Rights: Cultural Heritage in Transit

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pp. 1-22

Human rights. Are they universal?
Our immediate response is “yes, of course.” However that simple affirmation assumes agreement about definitions of the “human” as well as what a human is entitled to under law, bringing us quickly to concepts such as “freedom,” “property in the person,” and the “inalienability” of both.1...

Part I: Redefining Cultural Rights

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1. Protection as Dispossession: Government in the Vernacular

Valdimar Tr. Hafstein

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pp. 25-57

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was a long time coming. Within UNESCO it is customary to speak of three decades of negotiation, from 1973 to 2003. The latter is the year UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the convention; the former refers to a letter addressed to its director general. Conventionally taken to have inscribed folklore on the international agenda, the letter serves as a bookend, marking the beginning of decades of documents and reports on the international protection of folklore...

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2. Heritage, Legacy, Zombie: How to Bury the Undead Past

Dorothy Noyes

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pp. 58-86

The protagonists of James Dickey’s novel are saved from the consequences of a murder by the construction of a dam. Modern development projects create their own state of exception by making no exceptions. Connections formed by history are sundered by the flood of present necessity. Particularities are forcibly submerged. It is nothing new: in Goethe’s Ur-narrative of development, Faust regretfully leaves his pastoral hosts Baucis and Philemon to be dealt with by henchmen so that his dike building can proceed unimpeded, just as earlier he abandoned Gretchen, singing at her spinning wheel.1...

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3. The Right to Remain Cultural: Is Culture a Right in the Neoliberal Caribbean?

Philip W. Scher

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pp. 87-110

This chapter attempts to forge a link between theories of the commodification of culture, national identity, neoliberal political economy, and Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics, as a way of thinking through the idea of cultural rights as human rights. I am examining here state-sanctioned instances of national heritage, both tangible and intangible, in the Caribbean to suggest that culture in these small, postcolonial societies is increasingly seen as a valuable commodity...

Part II: The Ironies of Heritage

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4. Cultural Heritage, Human Rights, and Reform Ideologies: The Case of Swedish Folklife Research

Barbro Klein

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pp. 113-124

In Sweden today, politicians, museum employees, members of local tourism boards, academics, and many others tend to use big words when they speak about the protection of cultural heritage: a moral good, a democracy issue of great importance to civil society, a human right. Heritage issues are deeply entangled with hopes to improve integration in a country that during the last few decades has received great numbers of refugees and other immigrants in...

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5. Balkan Romani Culture, Human Rights, and the State: Whose Heritage?

Carol Silverman

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pp. 125-147

Roma, Europe’s largest minority, provide an illuminating viewpoint from which to probe problematic issues of the definition, ownership, and control of heritage in a historic framework of discrimination. The human rights of Roma are routinely violated, the very existence of their own culture is often denied, and they usually are excluded from the category “nation.” At the same time, their music enjoys worldwide fame in forms appropriated by non-Romani commercial forces. Via four case studies of Balkan Romani music, ...

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6. Intangible Rites: Heritage Sites, the Reburial Issue, and Modern Pagan Religions in Britain

Sabina Magliocco

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pp. 148-174

June 20, 2006: the night of the summer solstice, Stonehenge. Thousands of Britons of all ages and from all walks of life have assembled on the grounds of this UNESCO-designated cultural heritage site, with the consent of the authorities, to await the dawning of the sun on the summer solstice and participate in what has become an all-night rave. Druids and drummers mingle with police and vendors, who purvey everything from Mexican and vegetarian food to the glow sticks that have become ubiquitous to all nighttime public celebrations...

Part III: Making Sense of Human and Cultural Rights

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7. Intangible Heritage in Transit: Goytisolo’s Rescue and Moroccan Cultural Rights

Deborah Kapchan

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pp. 177-194

This is Juan Goytisolo’s list of things observed in Jma‘ al-Fna square in Marrakech. I begin with this length of tangible heritage to illustrate the porous membrane between language and object, between ether and solid in his project of “listing all the things that space engenders.” But I also use this literary endeavor to illustrate the ways imagination flows between the personal and the public, permeating and deeply affecting both...


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pp. 195-206


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pp. 207-232

List of Contributors

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pp. 233-236


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pp. 237-238

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209464
E-ISBN-10: 081220946X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245943

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 4 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
Series Editor Byline: Bert B. Lockwood, Jr., Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 878130576
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cultural Heritage in Transit