Research Handbook on Contemporary Intangible Cultural Heritage
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Research Handbook on Contemporary Intangible Cultural Heritage

Law and Heritage

Edited by Charlotte Waelde, Catherine Cummings, Mathilde Pavis and Helena Enright

Bringing together key insights from expert legal and heritage academics and practitioners, this book explores the existence and safeguarding of contemporary forms of intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Providing a detailed analysis of the international legal frameworks relevant to ICH, the contributing authors then go on to challenge the pervasive view that heritage is about ‘old’ tangible objects by highlighting the existence, role and importance of contemporary forms of ICH to modern society.
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Chapter 6: ICH and human rights: ICH, contemporary culture and human rights

Charlotte Waelde


While intangible cultural heritage (ICH) has existed for many, many generations, the international legal framework for its protection only emerged in 2003 with the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. More than 170 States have signed up to the 2003 Convention (out of a possible 195) but not the UK. This chapter will speculate as to why that might be, and argue that by failing to do so, the UK is in breach of its broader human rights obligations, most notably in respect of the rights to culture and to participate in cultural life. This chapter will frame the argument in the context of contemporary cultural heritage practices, and argue that formal recognition of ICH should extend beyond the indigenous communities and groups and their cultural practices that have to date been the focus of safeguarding, to encompass these new and emerging practices, highlighting their richness in the UK.

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