Drawing a line around a shadow? Including associative, intangible cultural heritage values on the World Heritage List
Beazley, Olwen Barbara. 2006. Drawing a line around a shadow? Including associative, intangible cultural heritage values on the World Heritage List. Thesis (PhD): The Australian National University.
As we move through the first decade of the 21st century, it is noticeable that intangible cultural heritage values are very much in vogue in today’s discourse on cultural heritage, its preservation and management. In this thesis, I illustrate that intangible cultural heritage values are not a new phenomenon to the heritage arena, and I demonstrate how they have been recognised through UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention – The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage- since its inception in 1972. My thesis explores key issues in relation to associative, intangible cultural heritage values and their inclusion on the World Heritage List. Intangible heritage value is, by definition, non-material and mutable. In order to illustrate the changing nature of perceptions of what intangible heritage value is, how it has been utilised, and how it performs through location in place, this thesis explores the history of policy and process in relation to the recognition and protection of associative, intangible cultural heritage values through the World Heritage Convention, its List and its criteria. The Convention and its instruments have been chosen for analysis because they are the highest form of international recognition for places that are deemed to hold exceptional or outstanding universal values. All places are imbued with associations, memories and meanings, both by individuals and collectively by society. It is these that form the intangible connection of people to place. The connection may be one of a memory of an event, an inspiration or a spiritual belief. Although many places have been included on the World Heritage List for their intangible cultural heritage values, very little study of the history of the mechanisms that allow such inclusion has been undertaken. As part of the development of this history, my thesis focuses on those places that have been included on the List exclusively for their associative, intangible cultural heritage values. It focuses on those places that mark key policy changes or debates in the history of the application IX of the Convention to those values. These places include the Island of Goree, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Robben Island. They are what Nora (Nora 1989) calls lieux de memoire, places of memory, or what could be called lieux d ‘expiation, places of atonement. In examining how the World Heritage Convention has accommodated intangible heritage values on the List, my thesis examines the political influences that were in play when these key places were considered for inscription on it. It also looks at how these influences shaped the ideas and policies relating to the inclusion of intangible heritage values on the List then, and in the future. My thesis argues that intangible cultural heritage value is mutable and subject to social preference and construction. Intangible heritage values alter over time, and each generation or society will construct the place, and its values, in a way that serves its current ends. In utilising these intangible values, I argue that State Parties to the Convention have employed the World Heritage List, and nominations to it, as part of a wider process of nation building, constructing national identities and collective memories. My thesis questions whether, in spite of a compulsion to locate such values in place, as a ‘materialized discourse’ (Schein I 997), intangible values can be circumscribed and conserved purely by protecting their locus.It also questions whether such values can be effectively included on a heritage register as static and immutable. My thesis draws on key texts of memory and heritage, which are examined through application to World Heritage places.