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UNU/UNESCO International Conference

Globalization and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Opportunities, Threats and Challenges

26-27 August 2004, Tokyo

Programme (72 KB PDF)


Today, two opposing, but closely linked, trends can be witnessed: on the one hand, there is an ongoing process towards a homogenization of culture, a tendency towards the development of a "global culture," facilitated by the rapid transfer of, and easy access to, cultural and other information. On the other hand, there is a growing diversification of cultural expressions, yet again spurred by the information and communication technologies, which enable many different actors individuals and groups to promote their specific cultural choices, preferences and positions.

Against the background of these trends, the preservation of cultural heritage plays an important role in defining cultural identities of individuals and groups. While the world community has for a number of years cooperated in safeguarding cultural heritage through the identification and preservation of cultural heritage sites, it is only recently that international agreement has been reached to cooperate to protect and promote intangible cultural heritage as well. Such "living" cultural heritage, as it is also called, includes practices, representations, and expressions, as well as the associated knowledge and the necessary skills, that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.


The conference will bring together leading experts on globalization and cultural diversity to discuss the complex relations between globalization processes and living intangible culture. It will seek to identify and discuss phenomena which have positive or negative effects on cultural diversity and its continuous development in general, and on the vitality and the transmission of the intangible cultural heritage in particular. The conference participants will develop their ideas on possible ways to make use of the forces of globalization to enhance understanding and respect for each other's intangible heritage among and within groups and communities, as well as to raise awareness about the importance of the intangible cultural heritage and to celebrate that heritage world-wide. The threats posed by globalization processes will also be discussed, along with ideas on how to cope with these pressures. Attention will also be paid to the ways in which the encounters of people of different cultural heritages can lead to new cultural forms and enrich overall cultural diversity.


The conference will consist of keynote speeches and a number of roundtables which will explore the opportunities, threats and challenges for cultural diversity and intangible cultural heritage arising from the current processes of globalization. The keynote speakers will discuss the opportunities, threats and challenges that are at stake from different perspectives. During the session of each of the Round Tables three or four experts will make short interventions departing from their own disciplines and based on their own scientific research and/or practical experiences.



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