intangible heritage


An intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill considered by
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a List of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialised agency of th ...

to be part of a place's
cultural heritage Cultural heritage is the legacy of tangible and intangible heritage assetA heritage asset is an item that has value because of its contribution to a nation’s society, knowledge and/or culture. They are usually physical assets, but some countries ...
. Buildings, historic places,
monument is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end o ...

s, and artifacts are
cultural property Cultural property does not have a universal definition, but it is commonly considered to be tangible (physical, material) items that are part of the cultural heritage Cultural heritage is the legacy of cultural resources and intangible attribut ...
. Intangible heritage consists of nonphysical intellectual wealth, such as
folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition ab ...

customs Vienna Convention road sign for customs Customs is an authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds every ...
belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconsci ...

tradition A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes about the wo ...

s, knowledge, and
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and ...

. Intangible cultural heritage is considered by
member states of UNESCO , UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a specialised agency United Nations Specialized Agencies are auton ...
in relation to the tangible
World Heritage A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for ha ...
focusing on intangible aspects of culture. In 2001, UNESCO made a survey among States and
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to try to agree on a definition, and the
Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is a UNESCO multilateral treaty, treaty adopted by the UNESCO General Conference on 17 October 2003. The convention entered into force in 2006, after thirtieth instruments of ...
was drafted in 2003 for its protection and promotion.


The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage defines the intangible cultural heritage as the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills (including instruments, objects, artifacts, cultural spaces), that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. It is sometimes called living cultural heritage, and is manifested in the following domains, among others: * Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; * Performing arts; * Social practices, rituals and festive events; * Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; * Traditional craftsmanship
Cultural heritage Cultural heritage is the legacy of tangible and intangible heritage assetA heritage asset is an item that has value because of its contribution to a nation’s society, knowledge and/or culture. They are usually physical assets, but some countries ...
in general consists of the products and processes of a
culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member affects the other. This is due to an int ...

that are preserved and passed on through the generations. Some of that heritage takes the form of
cultural property Cultural property does not have a universal definition, but it is commonly considered to be tangible (physical, material) items that are part of the cultural heritage Cultural heritage is the legacy of cultural resources and intangible attribut ...
, formed by tangible artefacts such as buildings or works of art. Many parts of culture, however are intangible, including
song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...

music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General include common elements such as (which governs and ), (and its associated concepts , , and ...

dance Dance is a consisting of sequences of movement, either improvised or purposefully selected. This movement has and often value. Dance can be categorized and described by its , by its repertoire of movements, or by its or . An importan ...

drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio drama, radio or television.Elam (1980, 98). Considered as a g ...

skill A skill is the learned ability to perform an action with determined results with good execution often within a given amount of time, energy, or both. Skills can often be divided into Departmentalization, domain-general and domain-specific skills. ...
s, cuisine, crafts and festivals. They are forms of culture that can be recorded but cannot be touched or stored in physical form, like in a museum, but only experienced through a vehicle giving expression to it. These cultural vehicles are called "Human Treasures" by the
. The protection of languages, as the largest and most important intangible cultural heritage, should also be mentioned in this context or, according to
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, President of Blue Shield International, important in the age of identity wars, because language in particular can become a target for attack as a symbolic cultural asset. According to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) – or living heritage – is the mainspring of humanity's
cultural diversity Cultural diversity is the quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to monoculture Monoculture is the agricultural practice of growing a single crop A crop is a plant or animal product that can be grown and harvested extensively ...
and its maintenance a guarantee for continuing creativity. It is defined as follows:
Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.

Oral history

Intangible cultural heritage is slightly different from the discipline of
oral history Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interview Some interviews are recorded for televis ...
, the recording, preservation and interpretation of historical information (specifically,
oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication Human communication, or anthroposemiotics, is the field dedicated to understanding how human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primate ...
), based on the personal experiences and opinions of the speaker. ICH attempts to preserve cultural heritage 'with' the people or community by protecting the processes that allow traditions and shared knowledge to be passed on while oral history seeks to collect and preserve historical information obtained from individuals and groups.

Food heritage

sustainable development Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services Social forestry in India, Social ...

sustainable development
gaining momentum as a priority of UNESCO heritage policies, an increasing number of food-related nominations are being submitted for inscription on the lists of the Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. The
Mediterranean diet The Mediterranean diet is a diet inspired by the eating habits of people who live near the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed ...
, the traditional
Mexican cuisine Mexican cuisine consists of the cooking cuisines and traditions of the modern country of . Its roots lie in . Its ingredients and methods begin with the first agricultural communities such as the who domesticated , created the standard proces ...

Mexican cuisine
and the Japanese dietary culture of
washoku Japanese cuisine encompasses the regional and traditional foods of Japan, which have developed through centuries of political, economic, and social changes. The traditional cuisine of Japan (Japanese: ) is based on rice with miso soup and other ...
are just some examples of this booming phenomenon.

Dance heritage

The UNESCO lists of intangible cultural heritage also include a variety of dance genres, often associated with singing, music and celebrations, from all over the world. The lists include: celebratory and Ceremonial dance, ritual dances such as Ma'di bowl lyre music and Sebiba dance from Algeria and dance from Uganda and Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan from India, and social dances such as Cuban rumba. Also, some dances are localised and practised mainly in their country of origin, such as Kirtan, Sankirtana, a performing art that includes drumming and singing, from India. Other dance forms, however, even if they are officially recognised as heritage from their country of origin, are practised and enjoyed all over the world. For example, flamenco from Spain and tango, from Argentina and Uruguay, have an international dimension. Dance is a complex phenomenon, which involves culture, traditions, the use of human bodies, artefacts (such as costumes and props), as well as a specific use of music, space and sometimes light. As a result, a lot of tangible and intangible elements are combined within dance, making it a challenging but interesting type of heritage to safeguard.

Digital heritage

Digital heritage is a representation of heritage in the digital realm and is a sub-category of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It refers primarily to the use of digital media in the service of preserving cultural heritage, cultural or natural heritage.

Oral continuity

Intangible cultural heritage is passed orally within a community, and while there may be individuals who are known tradition bearers, ICH is often broader than one individual's own skills or knowledge. A 2006 report by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador said, regarding oral culture in their area, "The processes involved in the continuation of this traditional knowledge constitute one of the most interesting aspects of our living heritage. Each member of the community possesses a piece of the shared knowledge. Crucial knowledge is passed on during community activities, frequently without any conscious attention to the process."


Prior to the UNESCO Convention, efforts had already been made by a number of states to safeguard their intangible heritage. Japan, with its Cultural Properties of Japan#Present 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, was the first to introduce legislation to preserve and promote intangible as well as tangible culture: Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan, Important Intangible Cultural Properties are Cultural Properties of Japan, designated and "holders" recognized of these craft and performance traditions, known informally as Living National Treasures of Japan, Living National Treasures. Other countries, including South Korea (Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Korea), the Philippines, the United States, Thailand, France, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Poland, have since created similar programs. In 2003 UNESCO adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. This went into effect on 20 April 2006. The Convention recommends that countries and scholars develop inventories of ICH in their territory, as well as work with the groups who maintain these ICH to ensure their continued existences; it also provides for funds to be voluntarily collected among UNESCO members and then disbursed to support the maintenance of recognized ICH. UNESCO has also created other intangible culture programs, such as a list called Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This list began in 2001 with 19 items and a further 28 were listed in 2003 and another 43 in 2005. In part, the original list was seen as a way to correct the imbalance in the World Heritage List, since it excluded many Southern Hemisphere cultures which did not produce monuments or other physical cultural manifestations. It was superseded in 2008 by the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. Recently there has been much debate over protecting intangible cultural heritage through intellectual property rights, as well as the desirability to do so through this legal framework and the risks of commodification derived from this possibility.Farah, Paolo Davide and Tremolada, Riccardo ''Conflict between Intellectual Property Rights and Human Rights: A Case Study on Intangible Cultural Heritage'' (December 19, 2015). Oregon Law Review, Vol. 94, No. 1, 2015
The issue still remains open in legal scholarship.

By country wise

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See also

* Living human treasure * Non-material culture * UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists * Petrillo Pier Luigi, Biocultural diversity and the Mediterranean Diet, in FAO, Sustainable diets and biodiversity, Rome 2012 * Petrillo Pier Luigi, The Legal Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage. A comparative Perspective, Springer 2020


External links

Definitions of Intangible Cultural Heritage
as of States, IGOs and NGOs in 2001
Full text of the ConventionWhat Is ICH?
document from Newfoundland, Canada
Exploring a Model of Living Cultural Heritage
New model of Intangible heritage
Culture Quintessence
Internationally oriented enterprise dedicated to the protection, appreciation and transmission of Intangible Cultural Heritage
Dédalo. Open source software for management of Cultural Heritage (tangible and intangible) and Oral HistoryIntangible Spanish heritage
{{Authority control Cultural heritage Traditions Cultural anthropology Conservation and restoration of cultural heritage Traditional knowledge