Intangible cultural heritage gaining ground at universities

  • 5 December 2017
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How can universities integrate intangible cultural heritage in their programmes? How we get young people interested in this topic? These were some of the questions addressed at a roundtable organized on 5 December, as a side event to the 12th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Jeju, Republic of Korea from 4 to 9 December.

‘It is no longer a question of whether intangible cultural heritage should be integrated in university programmes, but rather how’, stated Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director of the Division of Creativity at UNESCO, when addressing States Parties, NGOs, and experts who participated in the event. Universities have a key role to play in training administrators who will work in the area of heritage.

‘In most cases, intangible heritage is not treated as a separate subject’, analyzed Kwan Huh, Director General of the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (ICHCAP). More frequently, we see it approached from different perspectives and across different disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and history.

Another challenge is the lack of interest from students. ‘We need to show young people that they are connected to intangible heritage, which they are often practicing without even realizing it. And, we need to make them understand that they have a key role to play in its transmission’, Annie Tohme Tabet, anthropologist and professor at Saint Joseph University of Beirut, Lebanon.

Despite the obstacles, the participants emphasized that nonetheless intangible heritage has a growing importance at universities. A study conducted by the UNESCO Office in Bangkok, Thailand in 2017 in Asia-Pacific received responses from 37 institutions in 18 countries. The survey shows that many of the disciplines related to tangible heritage (architecture, museology, etc.) are now including intangible heritage.

‘Even if we are still in the early stages in Uganda, we feel that the younger generation is starting to understand its importance. We need to show a strong link between intangible heritage and development’, insisted Barbra Babweteera, Deputy Director, Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda.

‘We are interested in understanding the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and education in a creative and dynamic way. What is still missing is the cooperation and networking between universities’, raised Christoph Wulf, professor of anthropology and philosophy of education at the Free University of Berlin, Germany.

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