Cultural History programme


Conference: Urban cultures, Superdiversity and Intangible Heritage

The wording of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage states that intangible cultural heritage cangive communities, groups and individuals a sense of identity and continuity.A large majority of the groups and individuals whosepractice of intangible heritage has been inscribed in national or UNESCO lists are rather living in smaller or medium-sized cities as well as in rural areas.But what about therole and place of intangible heritage in the enormously diversified large conurbations of (Western) Europe?

Due to processes of migration, these cities are both “melting pot” and “salad bowl” with a great variety of cultural and social backgroundsand futures and diverse ethnicities. These large urban agglomerations often struggle with social and economic challenges and volatilities due to high unemployment and sometimes also high crime rates. Projects for urban improvement usually focus on social welfare and onimproving living conditions in general.

However, equally important in this regard is the cultural dimension. From the perspective of intangible heritage, it is impressive to discover the emergence of many new communal feasts, like the Notting Hill Carnival in London, the Barbès Tour in Parisor Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin. These communal feasts, in a way, mobilize the diverse social memories and talents the newcomers brought with them. They create a blend of social and cultural practices that give these groups and individuals a novel sense of identity and continuity.

How are these processes initiated andevolving? What does this mean for social cohesion in large cities? How to deal with disagreements and controversies in or between socio-cultural communities and groups? What role do city governments and socio-cultural workers play in bringing the multiplicity of stakeholders together?

In large conurbations, creativity and a broad variety of cultural and economic activities emanate that serve as a strong pull factor for many people. It is interesting from many perspectives, to examine how cities deal with socio-economic and cultural challenges.

In this international conference we will focus on the intangible heritage in contemporary urban contexts,by presenting several case studies with different approaches of how intangible heritage is practiced and used as a source  fostering social cohesion and cherishing diversity in the city. The year 2018 is the European Cultural Heritage Year, offering an opportunity to highlight the role of living heritage in the processes ofidentity formation of people in Europe. This conference will contribute to a fruitful and utterly relevant reflection about heritage and identity in the age of superdiversity.


Organizing committee:
Albert van der Zeijden (Dutch Centre for Intangible Heritage, University of Utrecht),
Jorijn Neyrinck (tapis plein),
Marc Jacobs (FARO, VUB),
Benjamin Hanke (German Commission for UNESCO).

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