Intangible Cultural Heritage Policies and Practices for Safeguarding Traditional Cultures: Comparing China and the United States

Short Seminar

April 9–12, 2013

Intangible Cultural Heritage Policies and Practices for Safeguarding Traditional Cultures: Comparing China and the United StatesIntangible Cultural Heritage Policies and Practices for Safeguarding Traditional Cultures: Comparing China and the United StatesShort Seminar Co-chaired by Robert Baron, Director, Folk Arts Program and Music, New York State Council on the Arts and Nicholas Spitzer, Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Tulane University, April 9–12, 2013. Photograph by Jason S. OrdazIntangible Cultural Heritage Policies and Practices for Safeguarding Traditional Cultures: Comparing China and the United StatesShort Seminar Co-chaired by Robert Baron, Director, Folk Arts Program and Music, New York State Council on the Arts and Nicholas Spitzer, Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Tulane University, April 9–12, 2013. Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz

As China experiences modernization, internal migrations, and cultural change on a scale unprecedented in human history, its government has initiated a major national program for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. This initiative entails extensive local documentation of folk culture, national recognition programs for exemplary traditional artists, and public programming to new audiences. Over the past four decades, folklorists and anthropologists in the United States have undertaken parallel efforts to recognize, document, and sustain local traditions through public folklore programs carried out through government and the non-profit sector. Scholars in both China and the US are examining similar issues, which include representational practices, mutual engagement with communities, individual and community agency, community cultural self-determination, public policy, and cultural intervention.


Seminar participant from China viewing the IARC collectionsSeminar participant from China viewing the IARC collections Photograph by Jason S. OrdazSeminar participant from China viewing the IARC collections Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz

This short seminar at the School for Advanced Research brought together folklorists from China and the US who are scholars, policymakers, government officials, and managers of safeguarding programs. Co-chairs, Robert Baron and Nicholas Spitzer, reported, “The Chinese participants and Seminar Chairs Nick Spitzer and Robert Baron viewed the Seminar as  a critically important continuation of an ongoing exchange among Chinese and American folklorists which began with lectures by Spitzer and Baron in China in 2008.”

Field trips around Northern New Mexico greatly contributed to the understanding of preserving cultural heritage by introducing participants to adobe architecture, the traditions of acequia stewardship, the Hispanic weaving community in Chimayo, the Native arts and how they are being maintained, and the loss of some parts of culture in the ruins of the cliff dwellings and pueblos at Los Alamos. Baron and Spitzer write, “All participants at the Seminar agreed that it was a landmark event, marked by highly productive exchange of ideas and the development of further collaborations.”

Robert Baron, Chair Director, Folk Arts Program and Music, New York State Council on the Arts Engaging Communities and Theorizing Practice in American Public Folklore
Nicholas Spitzer, Chair Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Tulane University From Cultural Conservation to Cultural Conversation: Public Representation of Continuity and Creativity in the Expressive Culture of American Communities
Deming An Executive Director, Division of Folk Literature, Institute of Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Reblooming the Community with Intangible Cultural Heritage: A Case Study of Jiezi Village in Northwest China
Bingzhong Gao Professor of Anthropology, Institute of Sociology and Anthropology, Department of Sociology, Peking University Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in China: Ending the Domination of Modern Ideology
Desheng Ma Vice-President for Projects, Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Chinese Ministry of Culture
Elizabeth Peterson Director, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress Cultural Conservation as Cultural Engagement
Qing Tian Director, Institute of Music and Religious Arts Center, Chinese National Academy of Arts Discussant
Jessica Anderson Turner Assistant Professor of Cultural Heritage Studies and Public Arts, Virginia Intermont College Two Cases for ICH Programming, Agency, and Ownership: Southwest China and Southwest Virginia
Lihui Yang Professor of Folklore and Mythology, Institute of Folklore and Cultural Anthropology, Beijing Normal University Road of Protecting Nüwa Belief: Native Protection Practices in She County of Northern China
Qiaoyun “Chao” Zhang Ph.D. Student, Anthropology Department, Tulane University A Comparative Study of the Post-Disaster Recovery of Local Cultures: New Orleans, USA and Sichuan Province, China

Sponsored by Dobkin Family Foundation

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