A Decolonial Critique of UNESCO ICH

Leah Lowthorp (University of Oregon)

Calls for greater global equity in the arena of international heritage recognition inspired a shift in global heritage policy from tangible to intangible heritage forms. This shift is most evident in the development of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) program, considered a triumph for the Global South. Despite UNESCO’s move toward a more equitable system of recognition, this pivot toward intangibility still, ultimately, reified troubling hierarchies rooted in nineteenth century ideologies of racialized difference and white supremacy. Despite the widespread characterization of UNESCO’s ICH program as a decolonizing project, the decolonization of heritage at UNESCO is far from complete.

Part of 06-02 Decolonizing Cultural Heritage, Friday, November 03, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm