Practical Considerations for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage  book cover
1st Edition

Practical Considerations for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage

ISBN 9780367472269
Published July 23, 2021 by Routledge
234 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Practical Considerations for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage examines theoretical issues relating to intangible cultural heritage policy and practice, whilst also proposing practical ways to facilitate the safeguarding of such heritage.

Providing guidelines for best practice that take into account the constraints of the UNESCO-ICH paradigm, Stefano examines the principles and practices of two alternative and largely non-UNESCO frameworks for sustaining living cultural traditions: the philosophy of ecomuseology, and the discipline of public folklore in the context of the U.S. Arguing that they offer more collaborative, equitable, and effective ways forward for safeguarding ICH, Stefano demonstrates how they can address the limitations of the UNESCO-ICH paradigm. Importantly, the book offers a personal perspective, grounded in the author’s public sector work, which allows the ICH discourse to move beyond critical analysis and explore realistic, alternative ways in which ICH can be collaboratively and equitably safeguarded.

Practical Considerations for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage proposes guidelines for professionals, researchers, and communities that foster safeguarding approaches that are as unique and nuanced as ICH expressions themselves. The interdisciplinary nature of the book will ensure that it is useful to those interested in community-led ICH safeguarding, as well as the impacts of UNESCO’s 2003 Convention, in diverse geographic, political, economic, and sociocultural contexts.

Table of Contents

  1. Setting the Stage;  2. The Challenging UNESCO-ICH Framework;  3. Part I: Community Participation in the UNESCO-ICH Framework;  Part II: Enhancing Community Participation in the UNESCO-ICH Framework;  4. (Re)Turning to Ecomuseology;  Conversation 1: Views from the Field: A Conversation with Langston Wilkins, Director of the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions ;  5. Public Folklore Contours: Infrastructure and Ideas;  Conversation 2: Views from the Field: A Conversation with folklorist Selina Morales;  6. Public Folklore Principles and Practice;  7. Shifting Priorities and Building Strategies

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Michelle L. Stefano is a Folklife Specialist in Research and Programs at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. She is co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Intangible Cultural Heritage (2017, with Peter Davis), Engaging Heritage, Engaging Communities (2017, with Bryony Onciul and Stephanie Hawke), and Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (2012, with Peter Davis and Gerard Corsane). She has served as a public folklorist in the United States for a decade.


"In this book Michelle Stefano presents a vision safeguarding intangible cultural heritage that is solidly grounded in theory while also giving sufficient space to more practical approaches and to practitioners’ voices, striking a valuable and necessary balance.

After critically examining the UNESCO safeguarding framework and the inevitable limitations of a state-driven model, she proposes pragmatic and effective ways to safeguard this heritage that are more truly participatory and equitable through applying ecomuseology principles and public folklore (in the US context). Through exploring relevant theory, illustrative cases and practitioner interviews, she shows ways in which these alternative approaches can help in overcoming existing obstacles to participation in ICH safeguarding. From this examination of existing frameworks, she draws lessons for more collaborative ICH safeguarding practice. Ultimately, and importantly, this book reminds us that people are at the centre of this heritage and that its safeguarding can only work well when they are fully engaged in its safeguarding."

~Janet Blake, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran

"Although the subject of international treaties and the object of national policy initiatives, it is hard to put a finger on a definition of intangible cultural heritage.  Perhaps that is the point.  As elusive as the term can be, something untouchable is not necessarily unknowable or inapplicable.  Practical Considerations serves as a field-tested guidebook for policy makers, policy enactors and educators in the disciplines of public folklore, cultural studies, museum curation, and heritage preservation.  It provides valuable insights into both the opportunities and challenges in an emerging realm of cultural policy and practice."

~Barry Bergey, National Endowment for the Arts, U.S.A