Bear with us! Aspiration, affirmation and appropriation: AHD or PHD.

In this contribution, we focus on the implications of the proliferation of the “participatory (/popular) heritage discourse” in the 21st century, e.g. via the 2003 UNESCO convention for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, as an antidote or an alternative for the “authoritative heritage discourse”. AHD is the term Laurajane Smith coined to describe a dominant heritage regime and practice in the 20th century. If for instance “masterpieces”, “masters”, “authenticity” or “treasures” are flagged as inappropriate language in the world of 21st century safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, what does this mean for programmes, proposals and discussions about living human treasures, virtuosity and mastership? In order to explore this, we need a new toolbox of carefully selected concepts. First we explore  an older set of concepts, launched by Carl von Sydow, around so-called “tradition bearers” and try to distill some lessons to understand the threats and opportunities of the 2003 UNESCO Convention, the LHT programme of UNESCO and other formulas. Further we explore three AAA-concepts (aspiration, affirmation and appropriation) that are interesting to understand the dynamics of the old guild system in Europe in the era before modern heritage discourses emerged (i.e. the early modern period) and that could also offer services for understanding the heritage formulas in arts and crafts today. Why do authorities use these formulas? Why do practioners mobilize them? And what is in it for us?


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