Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Republic of Macedonia

Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Republic of Macedonia

Article excerpt

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In this article we examine the way local, national, and regional politics affect the policies and practices of "intangible cultural heritage" (ICH)-a notion derived from the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage-in two detailed case studies from the Republic of Macedonia. While our conclusions are particular to our case studies, we hope that researchers in other national settings will find them useful for describing and analysing their own situations.1 We begin with a discussion of heritagization and recontextualization, which are inherent in ICH safeguarding processes. Next, we provide background on the external contestation of a distinct Macedonian ethnic and national identity, and the ways that UNESCO ICH safeguarding processes have been perceived and applied in Macedonia. Against that backdrop, we then describe and analyse two contrasting cases of ICH-the social dance "Kopackata" and the Galicnik Wedding-both of which illustrate how the cultural heritage concept itself can sometimes be used for national, commercial, and political ends.

The case of "Kopackata" (digging dance), from eastern Macedonia, illustrates the potential for living traditions to embody multiple meanings when they involve the same participants in different contexts. At present, "Kopackata" exists in different renderings: (1) as a living local tradition; (2) as a staged performance by local practitioners; (3) as a part of the repertoire of professional and amateur folk ensembles nationwide; and (4) as portrayed in media and social media discourse and perceived by the public as a symbol of Macedonian national identity. Though it was recontextualized to some extent beginning in the socialist Yugoslav era (19491991), its heritagization has taken place more recently and is connected to its inscription on the UNESCO Representative List of ICH (hereafter, Representative List) in 2014.2 "Kopackata" also operates independent of commercial sponsors, though its UNESCO inscription ensures that it is prioritized to receive state funds that are administered according to UNESCO recommendations.

The Galicnik Wedding-a tourist festival in western Macedonia that re-enacts a reconstructed, festivalized, and commercialized village ritual-in contrast, has been transformed through recontextualization and heritagization processes that stretch back to the socialist Yugoslav era. Rather than multiple parallel contexts for enactment, the Galicnik Wedding has become a singular performance through which a cultural practice has been fashioned into a national symbol. In its current iteration, it blurs the lines between tourist festival, staged folklore, state- and corporatesponsored ritual, and life-cycle event.3 Based on these two cases, we argue that while institutionalized systems of safeguarding ICH are always embedded in and affected by political processes of heritagization and recontextualization, the ways that these processes affect cultural practices vary greatly in degree and manner even in the same national context.

From a methodological perspective, this article provides an example of the ways in which scholars from multiple perspectives can collaborate on a topic of mutual interest. While we each possess a relationship to the issue of safeguarding ICH in the Republic of Macedonia, our relationships to the field differ: Stojkova Serafimovska is a local scholar, Opetceska Tatarcevska is a local scholar and cultural policymaker, and Wilson is a non-native ethnographer. Each of us has conducted independent research on ICH, and Stojkova Serafimovska and Opetceska Tatarcevska have also been active in applying for UNESCO ICH inscription for various cultural practices in Macedonia. This article brings our research together "intervocally"- that is, based on the principle that each of our perspectives enriches the others, our individual findings and analytical perspectives are aggregated into a cohesive narrative about the common ground that we have found. …

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