Intangible Cultural Heritage & Superdiversity

How can you safeguard intangible cultural heritage of a super-diverse community?

In this line of research, studies have been conducted into intangible cultural heritage in a super-diverse environment. How do you safeguard the intangible cultural heritage of a super-diverse community?

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What challenges have been addressed in this line of research?

In a super-diverse environment, more and more groups with different backgrounds live together: the majority consists of minorities. In cities and countries where this demographic fact applies, less and less a dominant culture is lacking: diversity is the norm. As a result, a super-diverse environment entails a wide variety of intangible cultural heritage. The Dutch Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage has investigated the underlying processes, with the central question: How do you safeguard intangible cultural heritage of a super-diverse community?

What activities and research has the Knowledge Center undertaken?

In order to gain more insight into the safeguarding of the heritage, three (super)-diverse areas were investigated:

  • the West-Kruiskade in Rotterdam;
  • Malburgen in Arnhem;
  • Leidsche Rijn in Utrecht

In these areas, participatory observations at meetings and festivities such as Keti Koti and Diwali, and interviews were conducted with key stakeholders such as civil servants, residents, entrepreneurs, heritage volunteers, cultural brokers and social workers. In addition, expert meetings were organized to share and collect knowledge and insights:

  • With the Rozet Cultural Center about intangible cultural heritage in super-diverse Arnhem neighborhoods and the role of social workers and cultural brokers in safeguarding the heritage.
  • With The Cultural Participation Fund on intangible cultural heritage and the urban environment.
What did this yield in terms of new insights?

An important insight is that in a super diverse society different 'custodians', people or groups who champion the intangible cultural heritage, are active: cultural brokers, entrepreneurs, cultural institutions, the municipality, and the more traditional heritage volunteers. These 'custodians' often have a specific reason to dedicate themselves to the heritage.

  • Commercial interests

There are many entrepreneurs with a migration background on the West-Kruiskade. These entrepreneurs organize cooking workshops or sell clothing and food related to intangible cultural heritage. For them this is a way to give the heritage a future, to propagate it and to make money from it. Another motivation of the entrepreneurs to dedicate themselves to the intangible cultural heritage is to attract people to the shopping street. For example, various entrepreneurs are involved in organizing events such as Chinese New Year.

  • Pass on to (grand)children

A more classic heritage community is active in Malburgen. The primary goal of the members of Multicultural Working Group Ashna is to pass on their heritage to their (grand)children. Generations growing up in a culture where the Hindu heritage plays a less important role. In their daily life, these (grand)children mainly come into contact with other forms of intangible cultural heritage. The distinction between celebrations in the private and public spheres is interesting here. For example, a volunteer from Ashna says that her children did not find the Holi celebration in a domestic atmosphere very interesting. In contrast to the celebration in the community center, there the young people feel part of a larger community.

  • Creating encounters

In Utrecht, cultural brokers are committed to intangible cultural heritage. Employees of Cultureel Stadslab RAUM see festivities of people with a migration background as a means of bringing people from the neighborhood together; they want to create encounters for local residents and let people come into contact with each other's culture. For example, a Divali celebration was organized together with Hindu expats.

  • Role of the municipality

The municipality plays or played an (in)direct role in all areas. By providing a subsidy to a cultural organization or community centers (institutions that are committed to the social cohesion of a neighborhood), by facilitating a consultation structure, or by making a space available.

  • Dependence on individuals

What is striking is that often a small group of people is actively involved in the organization of the intangible heritage. Something that has consequences for the heritage. For example, Jinai Looi left the West-Kruiskade and with her also the Chinese cooking workshops and one of the driving forces behind the collaboration. The intangible heritage in a super diverse environment is therefore sometimes vulnerable due to the dependence on individuals or subsidized organizations.

  • Safeguarding

These insights can be translated into concrete safeguarding actions. In all three areas studied, it appears to be important that there is a place where the heritage community can consult, come together, practice, make heritage visible and above all celebrate and experience it. Municipalities can play a role in this by creating, subsidizing or encouraging cultural organizations to contribute to this kind of meeting places.

Finally, it is advisable to form a network of stakeholders. By doing this, the dependence on individuals can be reduced. This can be done with heritage practitioners  of similar hertiage elsewhere in the country, for example an umbrella of foundations that celebrate Holi, but also with 'partners' in their own neighborhood, from local residents to the municipality and cultural institutions. The publication Keep your intangible heritage alive! provides tips and inspiration for collaboration with various partners.

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