Intangible cultural heritage: Global awareness and local interest

Amanda J. Kearney

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


In this chapter, I present an overview of emerging global discourse concerning intangible cultural heritage (ICH). I posit current legislative arrangements are in their infancy and yet to engage adequately with the complexities that interlace distinctions and connections between tangible and ICH and the capacity for ICH to be owned exclusively. For the vast majority of indigenous peoples, existing legal arrangements concerning their heritage remain under the control and definitional power of the state, rather than the distinct Indigenous nations that own, enact and assert these heritages in specific cultural terms.1 Focusing on the United Nations Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICHC) this chapter problematises aspects of current engagements with Indigenous people’s ICH, identifying and critiquing the power imbalances generated by international and state-defined legislation and Conventions concerning aspects of ICH. Recognising the political frame in which discourses of ICH have emerged and are maintained is imperative to this discussion. This reveals a discursive relationship between global trends of new environmental ethics, ecophilosophy and ecofeminism, and international interest in sustainable practices and ideologies as embodied in Indigenous or alternative knowledge systems. There is a dilemma in state control and direction over the very terms on which Indigenous knowledge systems and ICH are defined, perceived and safeguarded into the future. In line with this assertion I argue that fundamental shifts in epistemologies surrounding intangible and tangible cultural heritage must occur, highlighting the extent to which knowledge and heritage inform group and individual cultural identity, and mark cultural autonomy and distinctiveness. This chapter complicates existing discussions of ICH, while making recommendations for a shift in the discourse about such heritage. This complication can inform a range of academic discussions of tangible and intangible heritage, Indigenous knowledge systems and intellectual property.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntangible Heritage
EditorsLaurajane Smith, Natsuko Akagawa
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780203884973
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Intangible cultural heritage: Global awareness and local interest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this