Publication of the week: Dr Sarah Sargent

22 August 2016

Sargent, S., “Classical horsemanship and the dangers of the emergent intangible cultural heritage authorised discourse”, International Journal of Intangible Heritage (2016) 11, 35-53.

Intangible cultural heritage is a recent newcomer to the international legal sphere of heritage. It is a counterpoint to tangible heritage that includes such things as buildings and monuments. Intangible heritage includes expressions of heritage in song, dance, and performance. Provisions for the recognition of intangible heritage through inscription at the international level is done via the provisions of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.  There are arguments about whether intangible heritage should be inclusive of elements with an origin in elite sections of Western society. It is felt that these dominate tangible heritage and make it difficult for other kinds of heritage to be recognised. This article explores these tensions through a discourse analysis of the applications of Austria and France to recognise their respective elements of “Classical Horsemanship” through inscription on the UNESCO list of Representative Intangible Cultural Heritage.  The Classical Horsemanship tradition has its origins in Renaissance Europe, and thus falls squarely into the debate about what sort of heritage should be recognised as intangible heritage. A discourse analysis of the applications and decisions made on each application, which were eventually approved, highlights the unsettled questions around heritage, and raises the dangers of limiting heritage recognition by the origins of a heritage element.

More information about the journal is available at the International Journal of Intangible Heritage website.

Dr Sarah Sargent is the stream convener (since 2009) for the indigenous and minority rights stream for the annual SLSA conference. Her ongoing research interests focus on issues of culture and cultural heritage, as well as legal theory, and the rights of indigenous peoples.