I received this comment on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network
from Rene Tadlow. Cultural sustainability can be a matter of life and death.
I am pleased to send for your consideration an “‘OpEd” article which highlights two related issues; The major part of the article concerns the tasks of preserving the cultural heritage of fragile, minority populations and thus the role of ethnographic museums.
The second theme, in the first two paragraphs, concerns the hostage-taking of a scholar working on the preservation of the Kalash culture in Pakistan. He is currently being held on the Afghan/Pakistan frontier. The hostage-taking is, no doubt, linked to the fighting on both sides of the Afghan/Pakistan frontier but also to the difficulties of safeguarding minority cultures.
As both themes are important, your publication of the article might have an impact.
Sincerely, Rene Wadlow, Editor, www;transnational-perspectives.org and Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens
Cultural Heritage Conservation:
Challenges and Responses
The hostage-taking on 8 September 2009 of Mr Thanasis Lerounis from the Kalashadur Museum and cultural centre which he had helped to create has highlighted for many the issues of cultural heritage preservation. Professor Lerounis, President of the non-governmental organization Greek Volunteers is an outstanding example of a person devoted to safeguarding the rights and heritage of a small minority who carry with them an ancient culture. The Kalasha, most of whom live in three valleys in the Chitral District of Pakistan, number around 4000 people. They are believed by many to be related to the soldiers and merchants of the Asian empire of Alexander. Their religious practices have elements of the 4th century Helenistic faiths. As with all societies, the Kalash people have interacted with their neighbours so that the fire rituals of the Indo-European Vedic faiths play an important role in Kalash practice as does the role of shaman who are the living link between the spirit and the human world.
The hostage-takers have taken Lerounis to the Nuristan area of Afghanistan and are demanding $2 million in cash, the conversion of Lerounis to Islam and the release of three Pakistan insurgents from jail. The Kalasha negotiators, who have met the hostage-takers three times have no authority to deal with any of these demands and so for the moment, there has been no progress on the case.
Conserving a cultural heritage is always difficult. Weak institutional capabilities, lack of appropriate resources and isolation of many culturally essential sites are compounded by a lack of awareness of the value of cultural heritage conservation. On the other hand, the dynamism of local initiatives and community solidarity systems are impressive assets. These forces should be enlisted, enlarged, and empowered to preserve and protect a heritage. Involving people in cultural heritage conservation both increases the efficiency of cultural heritage conservation and raises awareness of the importance of the past for people facing rapid changes in their environment and values.
Knowledge and understanding of a people’s past can help current inhabitants to develop and sustain identity and to appreciate the value of their own culture and heritage. This knowledge and understanding enriches their lives and enables them to manage contemporary problems more successfully. It is important to retain the best of traditional self-reliance and skills of rural life and economies as people adapt to change.
Traditional systems of knowledge are rarely written down: they are implicit, learnt by practice and example, rarely codified or even articulated by the spoken word. They continue to exist as long as they are useful, as long as they are not supplanted by new techniques. They are far too easily lost. It is the objects that come into being through these systems of knowledge that ultimately become critically important.
Thus, museums, such as the Kalashadur, must become key institutions at the local level. The objects that bear witness to systems of knowledge must be accessible to those who would visit and learn from them. Culture must be seen in its entirety: how women and men live in the world, how they use it, preserve it and enjoy it for a better life. Museums allow objects to speak, to bear witness to past experiences and future possibilities and thus to reflect on how things are and how things might otherwise be.
*Rene Wadlow, Representative to the United Nations, Geneva, Association of World Citizens. Formerly he was professor and Director of Research, Graduate Institute of Development Studies, University of Geneva.
Here is an interesting, thought provoking video from Michael Mcdonald:
His blog is worth reading.
Good news, via the AFS newsletter:
The Indiana University Bloomington Libraries and the American Folklore
Society, in partnership with The Fund for Folk Culture and the Indiana
University Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, are pleased to
announce the availability of a series of policy publications created
by The Fund for Folk Culture.
The Fund, which was created in 1992 and suspended its programs in
early 2009, supports the creation, conservation, innovation, and value
of traditional culture and folk arts in community life through
grantmaking, convenings, the creation of networks, and research and
publications, all focused on issues critical to artists, tradition
bearers, and the organizations supporting their work. Its goal is to
?create a world in which diverse cultural heritages are honored and
all people have the right and resources to exercise preservation of
their cultural traditions and to create new traditions for the times.?
The body of Fund for Folk Culture publications now available includes
a three-part Issues in Folk Arts and Traditional Culture Working Paper
series; reports on three meetings devoted to the examination of issues
facing refugee and immigrant communities, and individual folk artists,
in the US; a report on Folklore’s Futures: Scholarship and
Practice symposium sponsored by the Fund and the American Folklore
Society in 2006; and two monographs, Culture and Commerce: Traditional
Arts in Economic Development and Envisioning Convergence: Cultural
Conservation, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainable Livelihoods.
Other Fund publications will be made available in the near future.
These published works are being made available in digital form as part
of the IUScholarWorks Repository. In this form, each published work
has a durable URL (web address) that will remain stable, insuring that
future citations to this work will lead back to the full source
itself. This published work is fully open access and documents are
provided in PDF format. The IUB Libraries are committing to the
migration of these materials to future file formats so as to preserve
the availability of these works. The IUScholarWorks Repository uses
standard metadata protocols, insuring that the works included in it
are easily findable through such services as Google Scholar and
OAIster, the Open Archives Initiative database, a union catalog
containing records for millions of digital scholarly resources.
Now available and searchable in IUScholarWorks Repository, the
publications of The Fund for Folk Culture join a growing corpus of
fully accessible publications in folklore studies, including the full
back files of The Folklore and Folk Music Archivist and Folklore
Forum. The IUB Libraries and the American Folklore Society are
exploring the possibility of other partnerships to create greater
accessibility for important classes of publication in our field that
are presently without a long-term digital home.
Find the publications of The Fund for Folk Culture online here:
This question keeps knocking around in my head, and I would like to start a conversation–not just a flurry of posts–about it. This conversation is part of what draws me to the Goucher program. Most of what I have learned about cultural sustainability as a whole, I have learned my colleagues in the program, especially Rory Turner. So it seems to me that cultural sustainability lies at the nexus of community, commitment and advocacy. It involves engaging communities in ways that help them identify, document, and nurture the cultural traditions that matter to them. Because communities sustained by environment and economy, these too play a role.
How do you understand cultural sustainability? And more importantly, how would you like to practice it?
For several months now, I have been toying with the idea of writing a post about Cittaslow–Slow Cities. Related to Slow Food but a bit less developed, Slow Cities is a full-blown part of the Slow Movement. They have guidelines, they offer memberships, and they even have a charter that they sometimes call a manifesto. As the UK site says,
Collective well-being is at the heart of the Cittaslow philosophy….A Cittaslow town celebrates tradition and quality.
Who can oppose collective well-being, tradition, and quality?
My ambivalence about the Slow City Movement has much to do with the fact that it seems to the province of the wealthy. To date Slow Cities only appear in Canada, Europe and South Korea–places where quality of life is already pretty high and some people have the luxury of spending their time pursuing an even better way of life. Because CittaSlow emphasizes hospitality, some people have suggested that it is merely window dressing for the tourism industry. Another concern It’s not that I am opposed to that–in fact, I have considered trying to get my neighborhood in Washington, D.C. to join as a Cittaslow supporter. It is simply the fact that so few people are able to access this approach to cultural sustainability.
The video on this page is remarkable. In some ways Ostrom makes a cornerstone argument for the importance of culture in sustainability, culture as a collectively created and negotiated process.
Without compassion there can be no cultural sustainability:
For all those interested in cultural sustainability and the place of culture in the public policy of the United States, I recommend you take a look at and help endorse Art and the Public Purpose. For a very nice comment on this framework by co-author Arlene Goldbard (who incidently helped advise Goucher on our program), see her essay in the Community Arts Network Reading Room.
Don’t forget to sign the petition and to share this statement with your friends and colleagues!
An interesting post from Tierneylab at the NY Times on the Non-Tragedy of the Commons. A quote from the piece, which shares the work of recent Nobel Prize Recipient in Economics Elinor Ostrom:
International donors and nongovernmental organizations, as well as national governments and charities, have often acted, under the banner of environmental conservation, in a way that has unwittingly destroyed the very social capital — shared relationship, norms, knowledge and understanding — that has been used by resource users to sustain the productivity of natural capital over the ages.
This is a very compelling essay by Jason Baird Jackson on the troublesome dynamics of corporate control of academic publishing:http://jasonbairdjackson.com/2009/10/12/getting-yourself-out-of-the-business-in-five-easy-steps/
Priniciples of sustainability, diversity, access, equity, local control are at work here. At Goucher we are building a program that uses open source tools, and that is committed to the unfettered flow of helpful, voluntarily shared information.