Intangible Heritage & Youth Cultures

How can an understanding of youth cultures broaden our concept of intangible cultural heritage?

In this line of research, research has been conducted into intangible heritage & youth cultures. How can insight into youth cultures broaden intangible heritage?

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What challenges have been addressed in this line of research?

The Intangible Heritage & Youth Cultures research line aimed to gain more insight into the cultural expressions of young people and to learn from the safeguarding techniques of young people in their cultural expressions. The central questions were how young people experience their cultural expressions and which processes of safeguarding take place there. How do young people feel about the cultural expression they practice and how do they differ or correspond? What can we learn in the intangible heritage field from the way young people deal with their cultural practices?


What activities and research has the Dutch Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage carried out?

Three different cultural expressions were looked into: Scouting, gaming and the Fruit Parade in Tiel. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 young people between the ages of 16 and 29. In addition, data was also collected during the CampZone game event in July 2019. Here, a survey was conducted among 20 young people.

The three different cases were compared on the basis of relevant aspects of safeguarding intangible heritage. By examining relationships between these different forms of intangible heritage and safeguarding aspects, we can learn more about how young people deal with cultural expressions and how other intangible heritage communities may learn new safeguarding methods from young people.

Finally, an expert meeting was organized in 2019 where young people, practitioners of intangible heritage and experts in the field of youth participation took part. Here, we thought together about ways in which young people transfer knowledge, deal with the visibility of their cultural expressions and how forming a group or community is a core element in the survival of a cultural expression.

What did this yield in terms of new insights?
  • Own responsibility means involvement

The cases showed that when young people were given a responsibility to organize something, for example, they showed a high degree of commitment. This translated into involvement in other areas and a sense of responsibility for the whole group. However, there are also examples where young people were allowed to contribute ideas to a project in a think tank, but after which little was done with the ideas they put forward. This backfired in the motivation to be active. Participative and equal collaboration with young people is therefore important in passing on intangible heritage. This gives room for new energy and creativity.

  • Facilitate fun

For young people, the social aspect of a cultural expression is the most important reason to participate in an activity. Intangible heritage communities that want to involve young people could therefore pay extra attention to planning and facilitating social moments.

  • Structure knowledge transfer among young people

There are various structures in which young people pass on knowledge and skills. From an organized system, such as the Scouts, to looser connections such as the Fruit Corso stickers and the gamers. As a heritage community, it is important to provide structures for young people to continue to develop.

  • Don't underestimate what young people want to learn

The interviewed young people indicate that they find learning new things and personal development important factors for being active in a group or community. This ranges from social skills such as organizing to more practical skills such as tying knots and welding.

  • Solve image problems through increased visibility

In all three cases, young people faced negative stereotypes, which led to shame in some young people about their activities. In their view, more visibility of the cultural expression and opportunities to tell their story would help.

  • Do not approach the cultural expressions of young people separately or differently from other forms of intangible heritage

Many of the cultural expressions of young people that we know are not only practiced by young people. In the cases studied, it can also be seen that there is an older guard of young people who take the lead in setting up structures to make a cultural expression future-proof. The roles of administrators and practitioners therefore do not differ from other heritage communities. Safeguarding the cultural expression therefore requires the same approach.

Concrete products
  • Verburg, 'Youth cultures and intangible heritage: learning from experience and safeguarding' , Volkskunde 2 (2020) 135-144. - Dutch
  • Report Intangible Heritage and Youth Cultures (Dutch Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage2020) - Dutch
  • Report expert meeting 'The Power of Young' (November 25, 2019) - Dutch
  • Chapter about collaborating with young people in publication 'Keep your intangible heritage alive! Tips and ideas for successful collaboration: with whom and how? '. This chapter on working with young people is about finding a balance between giving young people confidence and responsibilities and providing the support needed to work together on the future of intangible heritage. - Dutch

Network partners

In this line of research, there is collaboration with the LKCA and Erfgoed Jong! as network partners.

Contact person: Susanne Verburg, s.verburg@immaterieelerfgoednl

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