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Safeguarding. A key dispositif of UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Salvaguarda. Um dispositivo-chave da Convenção da UNESCO para a Salvaguarda do Patrimônio Cultural Intangível


The expression ‘safeguarding intangible cultural heritage’ was formed within the context of transformations in the instruments and strategies for protecting cultural elements usually designated ‘folklore and traditional (and popular) culture’.1 1 This wording follows the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference, 15 November 1989, hereinafter the 1989 Recommendation. The adoption of a ‘cultural heritage approach’ to this subject was a somewhat turbulent process that drew, since the mid-twentieth century, a winding path of dialogues with, and divergences from, common sense notions and mainstream preservationist culture. Throughout this process, political and conceptual possibilities for social engineering were envisaged, some were discarded, choices were legitimized and, no less importantly, networks were formed of agents and narrators of the political and legal negotiations that eventually lead to designing UNESCO ICH Convention as officially adopted. This path will be explored in the following comments on the formation of safeguarding as a cultural heritage policy dispositive2 2 I follow the definition as provided in Michel Foucault (1977), hereafter ‘Le jeu de Foucault’. and significant contrasts to other instruments, in relation to which it has acquired specificity, meaning and scope.

Key words:
Unesco; Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage; safeguarding; cultural heritage dispositifs; intellectual ethnography

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