Local Vocabularies of “Heritage”: Variabilities, Negotiations, Transformations é o título de uma conferência internacional sobre património que se realiza entre 8 e 10 de Fevereiro, na Universidade de Évora.
O encontro reúne profissionais portugueses e estrangeiros em torno do património para discutir os conceitos, os usos, as interpretações, as práticas, os processos de patrimonialização, etc. Neste contexto, o património imaterial tem lugar de destaque. Maria Cecilia Londres Fonseca (Departamento do Patrimônio Imaterial do Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, Brasil), Chiara Bortolotto (Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains, Université Libre de Bruxelles), Sylvie Grenet (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, France) e Laurier Turgeon (Université Laval, Canada) para citar apenas alguns nomes, estão entre os participantes neste encontro.
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Concern for “heritage”, in its French version of “patrimoine” or the Anglo-Saxon one of “heritage”, is often associated with Western cultural history’s originality and the spreading of the values related to it with a universalist and globalizing vocation. But the objects (artifacts, monuments, sites, animals, plant species and social practices) and the uses (memory and identity processes, transmission dynamics, links with the past and with history) today covered by the sphere of the Western “cultural heritage” are sometimes already part of the cultural practices and collective representations of non-Western societies. This plurality of “heritage” conceptions makes it possible to go beyond the rhetorical motif of the “great division” and to better redefine what makes world cultures different and what connects them. Moreover, though all societies do not attribute the same meaning or the same values to their heritage terminology, they are nonetheless part of a recent semantic and conceptual translation process of the international norms propagated by “heritage” institutions.
The difficulty in analyzing the layers and the differentiations of “heritage” vocabularies stems from the fact that international bodies have gradually included in the “heritage” field very different objects (architecture, town planning, art, landscape, environment, languages or practices and social representations) and have thus encouraged the actors to interpret certain local terminologies in terms of “heritage”, even though “tradition”, “culture”, “custom”, “memory” or “transmission” could have been considered autonomously. Moreover, the division of the “heritage” field into “cultural heritage”, “natural heritage” and “intangible heritage” contains in itself a classification of the real which is not directly transferred to social situations and which also obliges local actors to redefine their own categories of thought.
Besides, Western “heritage” terminology is perhaps only pertinent to the extent that the actors themselves assert their right to this vocabulary and use it. This relativistic position makes it possible to speculate on three aspects : firstly, on the terminologies applied to “heritage” type activities already at work locally in cultures outside international frameworks ; secondly, on the translations of the terms “heritage”, “safeguarding”, “preservation”, “restoration”, “valorization” etc. in conceptual negotiations which take place locally and, thirdly, on the differences existing between these two levels and on the incomprehension this disparity creates in the local implementation of programs using international categories.
Is it possible to draw up a comparative inventory of “heritage” notions present throughout human societies? What are the local notions that come into play in the contemporary “heritage” arena? What exactly do these notions cover in the autonomous regions of Europe or in those seeking independence and in the nations resulting from decolonization? How are the meanings and requalifications of vocabulary distributed in minority and fringe groups? To what extent can the heritage field be taken as a vantage point for a society’s historical evolution?
The central idea of this symposium is to carry out an international comparison of vocabulary variants and local linguistic uses of “heritage”, both in the context of contact with international institutions and in the limited one of indigenous and customary uses. The symposium therefore proposes to take seriously the emic definitions and redefinitions of “indigenous terms” and to draw up a critical inventory of them, by going beyond the fiction of a continuous and globalized homogeneous “heritage” field. A comparative analysis and the confrontation of related concepts in the different local vocabularies would also make it possible to get the measure of the transactions, mutations, misunderstandings and transfers that may arise from the global contact initiated in cultural exchanges over the last two centuries.
In this perspective, four main fields of reflection seem to emerge:
1. The variability of “heritage” vocabularies and the social effects of this in different cultural, historical and political contexts. How should we today consider the originality of Western systems of preservation, transmission and archiving and those of “other” cultures?
2. The conceptual negotiations at stake in the adjustments of local terms on a regional, national or international level. How are these negotiations part of the public space of terminological requalification of “heritage” vocabularies and practices, sometimes embodied in the form of “heritage” specialists or collective organizations?
3. The transformations the artifacts go through in the translation and exchange processes. What material changes do heritagized objects and representations have to undergo in order to correspond to local and/or international criteria?
4. The variability of scientific uses of the term “heritage” in academic traditions and the repercussions of this in experts’ practices and in interdisciplinary dialogue.