UNESCO Chair in Living Heritage and Sustainable Livelihoods
The UNESCO Chair in Living Heritage and Sustainable Livelihoods promotes an integrated system of research, teaching and training, as well as community engagement and communication in the Living Heritage/Intangible Cultural Heritage [ICH] and ICH-sourced livelihoods.
We facilitate collaboration between organizations working in ICH and internationally recognized researchers and practitioners, including faculty at UNBC and other academic institutions in Canada and around the world.
In the spirit of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, our specific objectives are to:
Since Canada has not ratified the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, very little research has emerged in Canada linking ICH and sustainable livelihoods.
There is general consensus on the lack of understanding of ICH in Canada, creating a need for ICH policy work, effective language transmission, and valuation of cultural expressions.
Our overarching goal is to catalyze the need for ICH recognition and actuate the recommendations made by our partner organizations, participants at the 2022 Conversations on ICH Conference, UNESCO, and Indigenous communities as well as respond to the recommendations outlined in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) and the Truth and Reconcilication’s Calls to Action.
While the ‘spirit’ of our work is drawn from the past, our knowledge-creation is driven by contemporary realities to envision a sustainable, equitable, inclusive, and culturally and linguistically vibrant future.
ICH is living heritage
This means that it is both ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’; it is alive and evolving. ICH represents traditions inherited from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part
ICH is community-based and identified
Intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it – nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage.
(adapted from UNESCO ICH Convention)
ICH is inclusive
ICH is inclusive: we may share expressions of intangible cultural heritage similar to those practiced by others. Whether from the neighbouring village, a city on the opposite side of the world, or adapted by peoples who have migrated to a different region, they all are intangible cultural heritage, passed from one generation to the next, evolving in response to their environments, and contributing to a sense of identity and continuity.
This is a living link from our past, through the present, and into our future. Intangible cultural heritage contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of one or more communities and of society at large.
ICH is representative
Intangible cultural heritage is not merely valued as a cultural good, on a comparative basis, for its exclusivity or its exceptional value. It thrives from its roots in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and, customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities
Colonization and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Canada
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, more than a century of assimilationist policies targeted intangible cultural heritage and languages of Indigenous peoples. Despite the damage caused by these forces, Indigenous peoples have been resilient and continue to maintain, transmit, and revitalize their living heritage in a contemporary world. Our work aims to support the rights of Indigenous peoples to practice and safeguard their own cultural traditions.
According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present, and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.