Legal and cultural landscapes

Cultural and intellectual property concepts, and the ‘safeguarding’ of intangible cultural heritage in Southeast Asia 1

Authored by: Christoph Antons

Routledge Handbook of Asian Law

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415659406
eBook ISBN: 9781315660547
Adobe ISBN: 9781317337409


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Intangible cultural heritage is a relatively recent add-on to a long-standing debate about the safeguarding of cultural heritage that was previously focused on tangible heritage, such as the Elgin marbles, 2 and displayed a tendency to what heritage scholar Laurajane Smith (2006: 109) has called a ‘discourse of monumentality’. The inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in the safeguarding programmes of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was meant to restore the balance between developed and developing countries in this field, because developing countries were regarded as particularly rich in intangible cultural heritage (Forrest, 2012: 365). Heritage in general, and intangible cultural heritage in particular, has recently become an area of great interest for a diverse group of ‘stakeholders’, ranging from tourism operators, and regional and national development planners, to the representatives of indigenous peoples and other ethnic minorities. One of the chief reasons for this increasing interest is the embrace of culture in more recent development strategies, 3 which include the emergence of cultural and heritage tourism, as well as high hopes in various countries for the creative industries (Suharmoko, 2008; Theparat, 2012; Borneo Post Online, 2010). UNESCO heritage listings become important symbols and quality seals for tourist attractions, whether they are natural parks or entire parts of cities. 4 In the case of intangible cultural heritage, the skills, knowledge, crafts and performances of local people are often an attraction that is marketed in addition to the special appeal of the site itself.

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