Saturday, July 8, 2017

Gfeller: The Authenticity of Heritage: Global Norm-Making at the Crossroads of Cultures

Aurélie Élisa Gfeller (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies) has published The Authenticity of Heritage: Global Norm-Making at the Crossroads of Cultures (American Historical Review, Vol. 122, no. 3, pp. 758-791, June 2017). Here's the abstract:
This article analyzes the global debate on the authenticity of cultural heritage as a lens through which to view the process of elaborating and reshaping global cultural norms. Drawing on interviews and mostly untapped archival records across several countries, it reveals that the groundbreaking Nara Document on Authenticity resulted from a surprising coalition of actors from diverse locations in the Northern Hemisphere. At Nara, Japan, in November 1994, Canadians, Japanese, and Norwegians came together at a Conference on Authenticity in Relation to the World Heritage Convention to challenge the prevailing Eurocentric definition of authenticity based on distinct yet partially overlapping interests. While adding a new focus on the arts and culture to the literature on twentieth-century international institutions as loci of transnational experiences, this article also offers a methodological illustration of how historical analysis can combine macro- and micro-perspectives, retaining primary materials as sources of evidence. It shows that the focus on entrepreneurial actors across geographical scales can lead to the discovery of archival troves highlighting seemingly unexpected connections such as those between Canada, Japan, and Norway. By illuminating these historical dynamics, this article further suggests that global norms not only bear the imprint of geographically and temporally anchored values but also result from alliances that straddle the traditional West/non-West or North/South divide. This research thus points to the importance of tracking global cultural connections outside a center-periphery framework and, more broadly, any preconceived geographical framework.