Whose Culture? Whose Responsibility? Gender, Power, and Class in Southern African Cultural Preservation Initiatives

Lisa Gilman (George Mason University)

This presentation analyzes how gender and class intersect in safeguarding efforts in Malawi and Zambia to create an inequitable system. The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage has fueled efforts to preserve “traditional” cultural practices across the globe. At the helm of many of these efforts in southern Africa are urban elites who have embraced European lifestyles and rejected many of the same cultural practices that they strive to safeguarding. Those who are supposed to embody traditional culture for the benefit of all ultimately contribute to sustaining a dual tiered value system (traditional/African versus modern/Western) that paradoxically undervalues the culture bearer in the name of cultural sustainability.

Part of 14-01 Heritage Studies and Folkloristics, Part II: Nationalism, Class, and Heritage Policies, Monday, October 18, 2:15 pm–3:45 pm