Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daily life as intangible heritage

In 2010, the French Ministry of Culture nominated "The gastronomic meal of the French" to be inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This nomination differs from others in that the tradition in question is not tied to a specific group or social occasion, but rather that all French people are expected to participate in ritualized meals from time to time. Here is how the nomination document describes it:
In French, the term ‘gastronomic’ refers to the popular culture of enjoying good food and drink. Other names commonly used to describe such a meal, which celebrates the art of good eating, include festive meal, feast, banquet, gourmet meal and, less formally, ‘blow-out’, as the younger generations would call it.

The document states further that:
The gastronomic meal is associated with a shared vision of eating well, rather than with specific dishes. It refers to the very popular gastronomic tradition, which is familiar to all French people,long handed down from generation to generation and constantly renewed, for example, through the contributions of new knowledge and know-how.

Including this kind of cultural activity in the UNESCO list can have a greater impact on "normal" people than many other nominated traditions:
The preparation of the nomination file has greatly contributed to raising awareness in the French community, previously not very familiar with the idea of intangible cultural heritage, of the importance of such heritage, manifested in daily life, lifestyles and thoughts.

The question is, should other countries submit similar nominations to raise awareness for everyday rituals? The communitas of football supporter clubs, or high school graduation as a rite of passage, for example?

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