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Questioning Heritage and Individuals

Pauliina Latvala, Dr.

University of Helsinki, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Arts, Folklore Studies


Does the concept of ‘cultural heritage’ change the interpretation of archived materials?

In my paper, I will examine some aspects on the impact of cultural heritage discussion in Finland.My research data consists of two different collections from two different archives: the Veteran Members of Parliament Oral History Archive at the Library of Parliament, and the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society. The first mentioned consists of the former MPs’ oral history interviews, and the second one contains the written memoirs of the non-politicians sent to a nation-wide collection project Politics and Power Games. Both collections reveal unprecedented potential of using the dimension of tacit knowledge in the research of political culture. My most important research questions are as follows: − How the individual interpretations of political culture move from private to public in the context of intangible cultural heritage discussion?

− How the representations of political past, present and future can be analysed by using the concepts of cultural heritage of politics and tacit knowledge?

− How the political folklore and other verbal expressions can be regarded as vernacular rhetoric?

− Is there enough information concerning the informants own role “in donating cultural heritage”?


Mats Nilsson, Associate Professor
University of Gothenburg, Dept. Of Cultural Sicences, Ethnology

Intangible Heritage – dead or alive?

With some examples from my fieldwork on dance, I want to ask if we by creating cultural heritage change the sound and movements of the music and dance in a way that we actually kill the dancing instead of keeping it alive. If so, what are we really preserving and what do we chose not to be heritage of all the expressions our traditions are full of?

Immaterial cultural expressions are part of our traditions, and can in my words be defined as “a continuity in change”. From this follows questions like where and what are the heritage and who is creating it. These selection processes are both conscious and unconscious,

At what time do we fix the music and dance, or can heritage really be a an ongoing process that changes the cultural expression continuously? Or at which place and at with time shall we pick up the dance heritage in question – because since there are hundreds of dance events going on all the time at many places. Or who’s dance, what group of people that are dancing, shall we then say about their dance that  “this is our intangible heritage?

Whoever, wherever and whenever we look at a cultural expression like music and dance, we will sooner or later find that some of it, or parts of it, has disappeared and died and some might still be used and alive. Is it then by preserving the dying we create heritage and by leaving the living we let the traditions stay alive?


Katriina Siivonen, Docent, Senior Researcher, PhD

University of Turku, Finland Futures Research Centre


Tradition, heredity and heritage

Searching cultural sustainability in art projects of young people

Artistic activities are a part of culture. It is relevant to distinguish them to tradition, cultural heredity and cultural heritage in order to analyse the sustainability of culture in art projects of young people.

Traditions are often seen as cultural items, which are transferred from one generation to another. Then, focus is in cultural continuity. However, cultural items transfer always from one individual to another, also from younger people to older ones. Every time traditions receive some new elements. Accordingly, traditions consist of both change and continuity.

Heredity is a collection of traditions, which are in some manner common for a group of people. People share heredity through mutual interaction in several groups simultaneously. There is a difference between heredity and heritage. Cultural heritage consist of specially chosen, valuable cultural elements, and it is seen as a natural presentation of the culture in question.

Cultural heritage is a central concept in cultural and youth politics in Europe. It has institutional power, which hides behind a taken-for-granted existence of cultural heritage. The aim is to create a strong common identity for people in certain area or group of people in order to support welfare and economic development.

I will argue that artistic activities as individual based processes of traditions, including emotions and a play with different cultural symbols, are most essential as support for the wellbeing of young people, their identification and empowerment in society, and the sustainability of culture. In these processes artistic activities are a part of interactive creation of changing traditions. Especially important this is in our era of globalisation. Art as common cultural heritage is not as important for the wellbeing of young people. As an example, I use the national art project Storm, financed by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

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