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Intangible Heritage and Erasure: Rethinking Cultural Preservation and Contemporary Museum Practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2011

Marilena Alivizatou
University College London Institute of Archaeology, 31–34 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PY London. Email:


This article builds on recent discussions on intangible heritage following the adoption of the relevant convention by UNESCO in 2003. The emergence of intangible heritage in the international heritage scene is tied up with fears of cultural homogenization and the need to protect the world's diversity. For a number of critics, however, UNESCO's normative framework raises questions around the institutionalization of culture as a set of endangered and disappearing ways of life. The article reviews these institutional approaches to cultural preservation in relation to the politics of erasure, the creative interplay of heritage destruction and renewal. This is then further examined against the backdrop of indigenous identity politics played out in two contested public arenas: the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.

Research Article
Copyright © International Cultural Property Society 2011

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