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Heritage Trouble: Recent Work on the Protection of Intangible Cultural Property

  • Michael F. Brown (a1)


A major factor driving contemporary concerns about the fate of intangible cultural property is the rise of the Information Society, which has proven adept at stripping information from the cultural contexts that give it meaning. Efforts to preserve intangible heritage have tended to follow Information Society models by proposing that heritage be inventoried, then removed from the public domain and returned to the exclusive control of its putative creators. This essay reviews recent scholarly work and policy initiatives related to intangible cultural property, with an eye toward identifying their merits and flaws. It argues for a more ecological perspective, one that takes account of the unpredictable quality of information flows as well as the costs of attempting to manage them. Also explored are some of the difficult, unanswered questions about whether all intangible cultural heritage is equally worthy of protection.



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International Journal of Cultural Property
  • ISSN: 0940-7391
  • EISSN: 1465-7317
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