Adapting the Living Human
Treasures idea in Flanders
(Belgium): The case of
Ahmet Erman Aral
The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage places individuals, groups and communities at the heart of safeguarding. The Living Human Treasures (LHT), although discontinued as a UNESCO programme in 2006, introduced an earlier model of this approach and is prevalent in various national and regional contexts. However, it has often been treated with a limited view to granting honours and drawing public attention to the excellence of masters, performers and other artists.
On the other hand, as many actions try to find ways to integrate intangible cultural heritage (ICH) into education, it is important to revisit alternative practices that have emphasized human agency in the safeguarding of ICH. Therefore, the subsidy regulation for apprenticeship to craftsmanship in Flanders (Belgium), where there is no official LHT system,
provides a relevant case that serves to align the human-centred approach of LHT with the Convention. An experimental practice that has been started by the Flemish Ministry of Culture in 2018 in Belgium, it is a remarkable initiative that addresses crafts communities in Flanders.
Notwithstanding the problems such as the application process, the limited involvement of NGOs, the lack of a
monitoring system and the absence of links to formal education, I argue that this experience devoted to a contemporary interpretation of crafts and craftsmanship can inspire others to mobilize and accommodate LHT
systems into national and regional contexts with connections not only to culture but also to education, design,
entrepreneurship and economy.
A viral folk tale. The stickickiness factor of a nineteenth-century witch murder in East Flanders
Maite De Beukeleer & Maarten H.D.
“What makes a folk tale with a grain of truth go ‘viral’? Why does a local anecdote continue to be eagerly retold
for decades – and sometimes for even centuries – while another event never becomes part of collective memory?
In this article, we delve into a specific folk tale, highlighting its adaptability and the existing ‘stickiness factors’ that have contributed to its enduring popularity. We reveal the true events and trace the folktale’s evolution over time. Our chosen legend hails from Onkerzele in East Flanders and recounts the nineteenth-century murder of a farmer’s wife who was deemed a witch by her neighbours.
Through this case, we illuminate an innovative approach to analysing folk tales, studying them from their own
historical context, memetics, and storytelling.”
The postcolonial olfactory landscape of a toko: a research of olfactory heritage
Inspired by the growing interest in the cultural and historical study of smell, this article addresses the emerging notion of olfactory heritage by an exploration of a postcolonial Dutch smellscape. By means of participatory smellscape research, it investigates experiences of the olfactory dimension of ‘toko’s’ in and around Amsterdam. It traces the ways
in which smell relates to key themes of heritage such as memory, place, and identity. Ultimately, it makes the case that considering the olfactory challenges and enriches engrained ideas of heritage as a concept and a set of practices.
‘European migration’ and the (familiar) everyday
The beneficial economic impact of immigration in ageing industrial countries cannot rationalize the current polarization around migration. The latter has cultural roots stemming from differences in language, culture and everyday customs between migrants and their new home country. Mass migration brought millions of Europeans to
American shores since the middle of the 19th century. Their descendants eventually became a self-evident part of the U.S. fabric. This mass migration is hence like a large-scale natural experiment, allowing us to better understand integration. The successful integration of European immigrants is often romanticized, and sometimes used to criticize
recent, non-European immigrants.
Drawing on the recent academic literature in the United States, and the specific migration case of Anna Remmerie from my book Naar jouw Amerika en terug. Een brief voor Anna, I sketch the hurdles past immigrants faced, as well as the cultural differences among them. Despite common perceptions, the ‘can-do’ European immigrants received help from various government programs as they settled in the United States, and some of them came illegally.
Moreover, big data analysis of their records shows that their adoption of America’s customs through language
acquisition, inter-marriages, name and location choices outside their familiar ethnic communities, took time and was no faster (no slower) than that of current immigrants.
Then and now, especially migrant children are the ones to build bridges to the new home country. They also climb the economic ladder the fastest.
Antwerp giants and ommegangen under French rule
The French period (1794-1814) is known as a low point in the history of giants and ommegangen in the Southern Netherlands. Traditional celebrations had no place in the era of liberté and égalité. Because of their connection to the old regime, giants and ommegangen were distrusted by the new French administration. Both culturally and materially, the French period marked the end of an era.
And yet, the break with the past was not absolute. Antwerp had a glorious Ommegang under the ancien régime, with floats referring to the Bible, craft guilds and famous monarchs. It is therefore even more striking that in 1796 the republican city council chose to integrate important parts of the old Ommegang into the republican festivities. Floats like the Giant, the Whale and the Ship took on a whole new meaning under the Directoire and under Napoleon.
Thanks to this political pragmatism, the floats survived the Revolutionary period. From the Restoration onwards, processions with giants were reinstated in many places, and they even regained popularity later in the nineteenth century. Yet, the phenomenon fundamentally changed in character: after the French period, giants and ommegangen gradually became relics of the past, remnants of a society that no longer existed.
Bien étonnés de se trouver ensemble: the canons of Flanders and the Netherlands
The canon of Flanders and the Netherlands have the Low Countries in common. Until deep into the 16th century, one could make a canon of those Low Countries without difficulty.
Then the Southern and Northern Netherlands drifted apart. The committee that drew up the Flemish Canon looked closely at the Dutch example. The “windows” have become even stronger eye-catchers.
The theme the windows evoke is usually more clearly defined. And two focal points make that Flemish canon more layered and open up more perspectives. The commotion in Flanders about the canon, then, is remarkable. The
refusal of many academic historians to collaborate in the making of this canon says a lot about Flanders being in fact a nation, but a nation with a complex, controversial and actually weak sense of nationhood that is not shared by veryone to the same extent.
Let that be precisely what makes a canon exercise delicate and interesting, fascinating and difficult.
‘Living heritage’ on death: Why are there only a few death and mourning practices on intangible
This essay examines the relationship between intangible death and mourning practices and the process of inscription on intangible cultural heritage inventories – specifically in the Netherlands, Flanders and Germany. Death and mourning practices prove to require a different approach for inscription because they are dispersed, vernacular, sensitive, private, emotional or sometimes taboo. When these practices, because of existing impediments, are not
proposed for inscription on the inventories through bottom-up initiatives, the alternative could be that professionals and experts will feel the inclination to interfere in the inventory process, to diversify the inventory. Showing a diverse sample of the intangible cultural heritage in the respective country is, after all, an important goal after ratification of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention. The results and analysis allow for the following conclusion:
What impedes intangible death and mourning practices is (1) they are relatively less organized and more dispersed which makes the application process difficult, (2) their delicate (private) character, which makes displaying them publicly, on an inventory, more sensitive. The question of why intangible death and mourning practices are impeded,
leads to two underlying scales. First, the organizational scale, between bottom-up and top-down. This scale deals with the inventory, inscription, and application process and how this is of importance for which practices appear on the inventories. A more formal, and top-down process is likely to favour well-organized practices that have a clearly demarcated community, time, and place. Death and mourning practices often do not fall within this category. Second, the scale of public and private. This scale deals with what is considered ‘appropriate’ in relation to the privacy of individuals and the heritagization of death and mourning practices on an inventory. Death and mourning practices often deal with a delicate balance between public and private, thereby complicating their inscription.
The childhood trauma legacy of the Pacific War. An undocumented example of late life trauma Boudewijn van Oort
The author shares his thoughts on childhood trauma and links them with a troubling Canadian Issue: The Residential School Fall-out. He refers to both of these as Undocumented Social Experiments, a provocative phrase coined by Dr. John Sigal of McGill University in 1993. It is commonplace that childhood experiences can saddle the individual with lifelong problems. But how this takes place is difficult to determine. Unravelling what goes on in the mind of a child is rendered difficult by the inability of the child to reflect on his own thought processes and to express them. In this paper, the author draws particular attention to seminal research undertaken by Dr Hans Keilson (1978) for a cohort
of youngsters, and illustrates the psychological dynamic suggested by that study, through his own cumulative traumatic experiences.
Professor John Sigal of McGill University coined the phrase “Undocumented social experiments” in his introduction to an English translation of Keilson PhD thesis. The Canadian Indian Residential school initiative begun in the nineteenth
century can similarly be described as an undocumented social experiment.
Water & Land. Immaterial heritage and sustainable development Chantal Bisschop & Laura Danckaert
Can intangible cultural heritage (ICH) serve as a leverage to mitigate biodiversity loss and threats of water shortage related to climate change? The Centre for Agrarian History (CAG) and the Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage (KIEN) are convinced it can. The dynamic character of intangible heritage makes it ideally suited to teach us more about how to deal with changes, for example in climate. From this perspective, CAG and KIEN started the pilot project ‘Water and Land. Intangible Heritage and Sustainable Development’ (2022-2025) with the aim of identifying, researching and promoting intangible heritage as a lever for challenges such as water management, conservation of
biodiversity and soil fertility.
The research into intangible heritage as a lever for a climate-robust future in the project ‘Water and Land’ is based on desktop research, literature study, and field research, dialogue tables with heritage communities and interviews with various experts.
Concepts such as intimate knowledge and ecological citizenship are central, and the project makes use of tools as
the Biocultural Heritage Framework. Starting from intangible heritage, the project aims to bridge the gap between
nature and culture, between practice and policy, and between heritage and academic research on the basis of this theoretical and conceptual background.
The Dr. Albert van der Zeijdens Thesis Prize
Sophie Elpers, Jorijn Neyrinck & Mark Schep
Albert van der Zeijden was an editorial board member of the journal Volkskunde for many years. In his research, he upheld principles of active interaction between theory and practice, participatory and ethical approaches to intangible cultural heritage. These principles are also at the forefront of the UNESCO 2003 Convention.
Following the sudden death of Albert van der Zeijden in 2021, the Dr. Albert van der Zeijdens Thesis Prize was established with the above key principles as its guiding principles. The prize starts from Albert van der Zeijden’s involvement in research and years of thesis supervision of students and encourages research on intangible heritage.
In Volkskunde over the next few years, we will regularly present the young research awarded from the thesis prize, albeit through the usual editorial procedure of Volkskunde.
At this first edition, Anne Veere Hoogbergen was awarded the first laureate by the jury for her thesis ‘Waiting for Yesteryears. An ethnographic exploration of ecological nostalgia in the contemporary Dutch intangible cultural
heritage context’. Josephine Koopman was second laureate with her thesis ‘(post)colonial smellscapes in text and
toko: an inquiry into olfactory heritage’; and Lisanne Renes thesis was awarded third with her thesis ‘Inventories of
Intangible Cultural Heritage and the impediments for dispersed and delicate practices. A comparative perspective on
the inscription of death and mourning practices on inventories in the Netherlands, Flanders and Germany.’