Social Sciences and the Making of Brazil's Intangible Cultural Heritage

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Gabriele DOS ANJOS, Fundacao de Economia e Estatistica, Brazil
Since the 2000´s the Brazilian state includes in its policies for cultural heritage the notion of “intangible cultural heritage”, defined by UNESCO´s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills” and “the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces” recognized by communities, groups and individuals “as part of their cultural heritage”. This intangible cultural heritage is “transmitted from generation to generation” and provides “a sense of identity and continuity” for such groups. That definition opposes a traditional culture to mass and elite cultures, and the Brazilian policies emphasizes the “popular or native” character of intangible heritage, following the creation and sponsorship of a “national culture” by the Brazilian state.

These policies carry the creation of the National Program for Intangible Heritage (Programa Nacional de Patrimônio Imaterial) and procedures for intangible heritage´s identification, register and enrollment. The description and labeling of social practices as “intangible cultural heritage” demand the knowledge of culture experts, like architects, historians and mainly anthropologists. This work presents the analysis on the making of the intangible cultural heritages by the uses of social sciences’ concepts and methodologies. Those uses imply the intermediation between social sciences and state requirements, and the enrollment of social scientists in cultural heritage´s advocacy. Simultaneously, it could imply in a lack of perception on power relations and conflicts entrenched in social practices, promoted and even celebrated as “heritage”. Moreover, these social scientists contribute to establish otherness, defining the “people” and his “traditions” to be safeguarded, so distant in relation to elite patterns, resources and practices.